Reciprocity: The Nature and Attributes of Research Relations and Power
In this chapter, we trace the move from dialectics of power to reciprocity in research relations. Whereas in the past research participants were mainly considered to be pro¬viders of information [informants, subjects], and as means to the end of knowledge acquisition initiated by the researcher, shaping fundamentally asymmetrical relations, more recent conceptions of the research relationships attempt to portray a more symmetrical research relationship between researchers and participants. As a reaction to the initial asymmet¬ric and potentially exploitative nature of research relationships, over the years, a new trend has been developing in which a quest for symmetry of relationships has become a driving force and sometimes a goal of research (Kvale, 2003; Limerick, Burgess-Limerick, & Grace, 1996). We claim that equality between research parties is unrealistic because each plays an entirely differ¬ent role, and is motivated by different goals. Adopting conceptions of the research relationship as symmetric or asymmetric tends to create interminable futile attempts to achieve symmetry where it does not, and can¬not exist. Rather than viewing an egalitarian research system of relationships as reflecting a first-order change, we suggest introducing a second-order change into the system of research relationship. Viewing the interaction as reciprocal in nature promotes a schematic change, allowing a second-order change to take place. Rather than restricting ourselves to either symmet¬rical or asymmetrical relationships, understanding that these relations are reciprocal fosters a synthesis between the two previously opposing views. Using a dialectical reasoning mode, we switch from an either/or perspective to a both/and perspective (Basseches, 2005).