Researching out of cultural depth: Positioning within the insider-outsider continuum

Halimah Ilavarasi


In this article I discuss my experiences as an international PhD student conducting research in New Zealand. This reflexive paper will discuss the challenges and difficulties I faced as a novice researcher and as an ‘outsider’ who needed to understand and embrace the uniquely Kiwi-Māori culture that permeates New Zealand society. In particular, this article will focus on my experiences during the data collection phase of my doctoral research, which examines young children’s empathy towards animals in Aotearoa New Zealand. As an international student from Singapore based in New Zealand and as a vegan of seven years, I will shed light on the two challenges that I face as a researcher: firstly, my struggles as an outsider making sense of the Kiwi culture while conducting this research, and secondly, as a vegan researcher whose personal philosophy of veganism runs counter to the overarching socio-cultural beliefs and practices towards animals in New Zealand.


Reflexivity; cross-cultural; insider-outsider; ethnography; New Zealand; doctoral research

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DOI: 10.15663/wje.v22i2.563


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© Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education, 2015