The Paradox of Positionality: Avoiding, Embracing, or Resisiting Feminist Accountability

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Fat Studies

First page number:


Last page number:



Wrestling with the desirability and possibility of research objectivity, scholars across disciplines debate the claim that there can ever be value-free research. While many sociocultural scholars defend and strive for research objectivity, feminists tend to reject such approaches and instead continue to call on scholars to position themselves in their research presentations and publications in relation to the topic being studied, and in the case of empirical work, their participants. We might think of this call as a feminist accountability, which we suggest most scholars avoid, some embrace, and others resist. One can avoid positioning themselves in their research, but we contend in doing so they potentially stabilize dangerous claims that surround the desirability and possibility of research objectivity. Those who embrace accountability by positioning themselves in their analyses are not without their own risks. They often have to vulnerably share intimate details about themselves or their loved ones. For those who embrace accountability and are members of a marginalized community they are studying, they are also likely to experience heightened accusations that their research is biased and/or a self-discovery project derogatorily referred to as “mesearch.” Others who resist feminist accountability might do so for good reason especially for scholars studying very stigmatized phenomena, but it is likely folks who engage their work will still make problematic assumptions about their bodies, identities, and experiences. It is through the various ways of navigating this feminist accountability that we offer the paradox of positionality and contend that fat studies scholarship is an ideal entry point into its theorization.


Epistemology; Positionality; Research bias; Scholar-activism


Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies



UNLV article access

Search your library