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The purpose of this paper is to further existing research on fieldwork practices and experiences by focusing on issues of reflexivity (Pillow, 2003) and research ethics (Guillemin & Gillam, 2004) within “openly ideological research” (Lather, 1986) that actively renounces the objective observer in favor of the praxis-driven embodied research actor (Giardina & Newman, 2011a). This paper examines incidents from our fieldwork on the Baltimore Grand Prix and the city’s 2011 mayoral election as, at a public forum, we were accused, not only of malicious intent but also of nefarious origin. As a result, this paper focuses upon the many dilemmas—moral, ethical, personal—inherent in ethnographic research (Springwood & King, 2001), with a deliberate focus upon the researcher’s (in)ability to “blend in” to a research setting (Woodward, 2008). More specifically this paper examines research in public spaces conducted with the aim of stimulating potentially divisive discourse. Through our experiences, we attempt to reveal the complex layers of power and space, created by and through our presence as academic researchers.
The authors are with the Department of Kinesiology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD.