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Reducing symbolic-violence in the research encounter: collaborating with a survivor of domestic abuse in a qualitative study in UK primary care.


This paper explores ideas of symbolic violence inherent in the research encounter (Bourdieu 1999). After defining symbolic violence and how the concept enters into domestic violence and abuse (DVA) research, we discuss the challenges arising from a (DVA) survivor taking on the role of interviewer in a qualitative study nested within a UK primary care based trial: IRIS (Identification and Referral to Improve Safety). KS, a survivor of DVA, conducted interviews with 12 women who had been referred to a domestic violence agency by primary care clinicians taking part in the IRIS trial in two UK cities (Bristol and east London) during 2009. Field notes were kept during all of the research meetings with KS and these were included in analysis. Our analysis maps the research pathway of 'non-violent communication' and discusses the role of social symmetry and proximity in the research encounter. We conclude that while a welcoming disposition, empathy and active listening are all generic skills to qualitative research; if a researcher can enter fieldwork with a claim of social proximity and symmetry, their use of these generic skills is enhanced through a process of shared objectification and empowerment talk. We explore the limitations of social proximity, its relationship to feminist and anthropological theories of 'insider' research and its relevance to primary care research.


  • Publisher Full Text
  • Authors+Show Affiliations


    Centre for Academic Primary Care, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, UK.


    Womens Aid, London, UK.

    Centre for Academic Primary Care, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, UK.


    Sociology of health & illness 38:3 2016 Mar pg 442-58


    Cooperative Behavior
    Domestic Violence
    Interviews as Topic
    Primary Health Care
    Qualitative Research
    Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
    Research Design
    United Kingdom

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article



    PubMed ID