Attending to Researcher Positionality in Geographic Fieldwork on Health in Latin America: Lessons From La Costa Ecuatoriana

Abstract / Resumen / Resumo

The process of generating geographic knowledge through fieldwork is inevitably affected by the researcher’s social location. Such considerations have been examined for researchers crossing major fault lines of power and privilege, such as those created through inequitable relationships between Latin America and the global North. We draw on our fieldwork experiences in banana-producing regions of the Ecuadorian coast to extend such arguments to the context of geographic research on health in Latin America. As a white male Canadian and a female mestiza highland Ecuadorian, we grappled with persistent neo-colonial imaginative geographies associated with global health scholarship, but also with stereotypes held by relatively-privileged urban Ecuadorians about their rural coastal counterparts. We sought to avoid reproducing such essentializing discourses, but also found that the data we collected were profoundly affected by geographic essentialisms, and related gender and class stereotypes, applied to us by research participants. In light of these experiences, we argue for renewed attention to researcher positionality as both a methodological and a political imperative in geographic research on health in Latin America. Such an extension is timely as geographers engage with the field of global health and with theories and scholars originating in Latin American.