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Seminar Series - Truths, Lies, Sex and Stories? Researching Allegations of Sexual Misconduct Made Against School Teachers

Date: 2 May 2012 Time: 12.30 p.m. - 2.00 p.m.

Venue: FASS MR1

Pat Sikes

Professor of Qualitative Inquiry

University of Sheffield, School of Education

Truths, Lies, Sex and Stories? Researching Allegations of Sexual Misconduct Made Against School Teachers

In calling upon sociologists to invoke the 'sociological imagination' in such a way that 'the personal uneasiness of individuals is focused upon explicit troubles and the indifference of publics is transformed into involvement with public issues' (Mills, 1970, pp. 11 - 12), C Wright Mills put his cards on the table and made it clear that, for him, research was political activity. Mills' view was that 'much private uneasiness goes unformulated; much public malaise and many decisions of enormous structural relevance never become public issues .. it is the uneasiness itself that is the trouble; it is the indifference itself that is the issue' (1970 pp. 18 - 19).

In this presentation I want to tell the story of a particular research project which had its genesis in the personal uneasiness I felt when I first heard an account of what happened to a teacher and to his family after he was accused of a sexual offense against a pupil which he claimed he did not commit and of which he was later cleared. This story is troubling and complex, both in terms of its substance and with regard to issues around methodology, method and the research process per se. It provides an illustration of difficulties which can be faced by researchers who seek to use qualitative, specifically narrative, approaches to formulate unease with a view to provoking action rather than indifference. These difficulties can be particularly acute when the research challenges master narratives which privilege certain truths and accounts above others, with serious and sometimes devastating consequences for those who are not believed. In such circumstances what is considered to be 'the real evidence' becomes particularly contentious. This is not, however, a pessimistic, negative or defeatist story. Rather it offers an account of how qualitative research with an explicitly political aim can contribute to transformation.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for Social Justice and Wellbeing in Education, Educational Research


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