Doing research has been particularly emotional to me this year. All phenomena that I have studied as a feminist anthropologist have been emotional, but this year I have specifically focused on emotions as part of the knowledge making in the expert interviews that we have made in Nordwit. The aim of these interviews made with women and men who represented local universities, as well as public and private sectors, was to understand the current RDI situation in the region of Tampere.
The interviews were made during the merger process of three local universities. The new university that will start next year is expected to create positive “buzz” in both science and industry. In the interviews, we were particularly interested in the ideal academics that the new university is hoping to attract; and the mobility of the former/current researchers. The university policy in Finland emphasizes the need to lure (global) excellences into universities to ensure the high quality research and the success in global competition. In practice, this means that the research inputs, especially number of publications in the highly ranked journals and received external research funding are the most valued merits while recruiting new people at the universities. This recruitment policy was supported by many of our interviewees.
As a researcher who has been working all her career with short-term contracts, these particular interviews felt very emotional and personal to me, because I had to wonder whether my own academic background, lists of publications and received funding, would be considered as less ideal in this meritocratic university. Therefore, I must consider, how these emotions affected the interviews, in other words, what kind of affective space the interviews came into being; and how the knowledge of the paths of gendered research careers became generated in this space?
Reflecting emotions is an essential part of the feminist and anthropologist knowledge making. For example, feminist scholar of international relations, Megan MacKenzie (2011, 692) writes that “reflexivity should place emphasis on the ways in which the consumption, exchange, and witnessing of emotions through research alters and affects the researcher and the research process.” We know from somewhere, from our socio-cultural positions and from our bodies. We cannot erase emotions from our analysis; instead, they must be considered as affective element in our knowledge making. Through them, we might learn new things about researchers and their career choices and opportunities.
MacKenzie, M. H. (2011). Their Personal is Political, Not Mine: Feminism and Emotion. International Studies Review 13(4), 691–693.