Critical Self Positioning Tool

Reflection on your social background and its influence on your interactions
Anatoli Miske, Iconfinder, edited by Samuel Whitcomb

This tool offers three concrete exercises that can be used to reflect upon one's own social background and identity and how these influence interactions with others. These exercises are not only suitable to practice with students during seminars, but are also important to use to reflect upon your own position as teacher and your interactions with students in the context of seminars, supervision, and knowledge transfer in general.

The three exercises have the form of different “identity-wheels” that complement each other. The recommendation is to follow the order as suggested below, yet this can be adjusted according to the needs and prior knowledge of the group.

This wheel is meant for you to think about and reflect upon what social identities can shape you as a person, when these become explicitly visible and/or sensible, and how these identities take shape in relation to others. It concerns both marginalized social identities/backgrounds as well as social privileges that can be connected with identities, and the possible combination of these. 

Every form of social scientific research entails interaction among researchers and research-participants. This wheel is meant to think about the different and overlapping social identities of researchers and participants in research locations and to think about these in relation to the process of data-collection (interviews, focus groups, participant observation etc.) and knowledge production. This exercise is particularly suitable as a preparation to fieldwork.

This third exercise is meant to break with the often-used categories of social identity that we have seen in the social and research identity wheels (ethnicity, class, gender etc.), and to see which other forms of (self-)identification are possible, such as with locations, food, subcultures or hobbies. These aspects can also be of importance to how you position yourself in society as well as how you are perceived by others. They can be of importance to how you give meaning to your social surroundings, and can be of importance in research settings. For example: maybe you are a fan of poetry and you share this interest with your research participants. 

This tool was created by Kathrine van den Bogert, Elke Linders and Nicole Sanches from Utrecht University.

You can find the link to the Critical Self Positioning tool here.

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