“Ducking, diving and playing along”: Negotiating everyday heteroerotic subjectivity in the field

Memory Mphaphuli (Department of Sociology, University of Ghent, Gent, Belgium)
Gabriele Griffin (Centre for Gender Research, Uppsala Universitet, Uppsala, Sweden)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Publication date: 22 August 2019



The purpose of this paper is to explore the fieldwork dilemmas a young, female, heterosexual, indigenous South African researching everyday negotiations around heterosexuality within township families encountered in negotiating her own heteroerotic subjectivity within the field.


A heterosexuality studies approach is here combined with a critical feminist research methodological perspective.


The paper argues that researchers are often unprepared for having to negotiate their erotic subjectivity within the field and that such negotiations can be compromising to the researcher in a variety of ways.

Practical implications

The paper suggests that more might be done to prepare researchers for negotiating identity aspects such as sexuality in the field since that negotiation impacts on one’s research and the researcher’s sense of self in the field.

Social implications

The paper critically interrogates what negotiating one’s erotic subjectivity in the field might mean.


Little is published on female researchers negotiating their heteroerotic subjectivity in the field. The paper contributes original insights on this from fieldwork carried out by an indigenous heterosexual female researcher in South African townships. It raises important issues about the conduct of fieldwork in (non-)compromising and agentic ways.



This paper arises from a collaboration between the authors which began at a Qualitative Research Methods workshop at Ghent University in 2018, funded by U4 (a collaboration between the universities of Göttingen, Groningen, Ghent and Uppsala). The authors would like to thank U4 for making this collaboration possible. The authors would like to thank Memory Mphaphuli’s research participants who gave generously of their time and insights. The authors would also like to thank colleagues both at Ghent University and, more specifically, at the Centre for Gender Research, Uppsala University, for useful comments and conversations regarding aspects of this paper. Finally, the authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers who raised some productive questions and provided some really brilliant references – the authors salute you for this!


Mphaphuli, M. and Griffin, G. (2019), "“Ducking, diving and playing along”: Negotiating everyday heteroerotic subjectivity in the field", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 34-48. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-03-2019-0029



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