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research-article2017
QIXXXX10.1177/1077800417727765Qualitative InquiryCastrodale
Article
Mobilizing Dis/Ability Research: A Critical
Discussion of Qualitative Go-Along
Interviews in Practice
Qualitative Inquiry
1­–11
© The Author(s) 2017
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https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800417727765
DOI: 10.1177/1077800417727765
journals.sagepub.com/home/qix
Mark Anthony Castrodale1
Abstract
In this article, I document the challenges of operationalizing critical qualitative mobile research methods, specifically go-along
interviews. Mobility-oriented qualitative inquiry is a way to examine disabled and Mad persons’ socio-spatial knowledges
and study spatial inequalities impacting these persons. I reflect on my own positionality as an able-bodied researcher, while
conducting research with self-identifying Mad and disabled research participants. I further discuss the limitations, enabling
factors, constraints, and implications of engaging in go-along interviews. Next, I unpack how and why this method at many
times was not desired by my research participants in favor of more traditional interview techniques, such as sit-down faceto-face interviews. There is a need to critically (re)consider space and place in research practices in ways that value the
often subjugated voices and socio-spatial knowledge(s) of Mad and disabled persons.
Keywords
disability, disability studies, go-along interviews, Mad studies, mobile methodology
Introduction
Disability-related research has been historically viewed as
oppressive when disabled persons have been excluded from
shaping the research process (Kitchin, 1999, 2000; Mercer,
2002; Peterson, 2011). Disabled persons have been objects
of inquiry, subjected to a biomedical pathologizing gaze,
dehumanized, and exposed to real and systemic violence in
the name of inquiry often by able-bodied researchers
(Chouinard, 2000; Goodley, 2014; Linton, 1998; Oliver, 1997).
Ontologically, disability has often been understood as individual lack, deficiency, and in need of fixing (Oliver, 1992, 1997).
In contrast to individualizing biomedical models of disability, rooting deficit in disabled persons themselves, a
social model approach to disability recognizes oppressive
structures that limit the full societal participation of
disabled persons (see Barnes, 2012). Disability studies
researchers have articulated a need to question power relations in research processes which (re)produce able-bodied
privilege and marginalize disabled persons (Oliver, 1992).
Disabled persons have advocated for involvement and control over research processes and knowledge production
(Brown & Boardman, 2011; Chouinard, 2000; Goodley &
Moore, 2000; Stone & Priestley, 1996; Zarb, 1992).
Similarly, Mad studies1 scholars have advocated for the perspectives of psychiatric system consumers, survivors, and
ex-patients (c/s/x) who have experienced sanist oppression
to ethically inform and transform the politics of research
production (Beresford & Wallcraft, 1997).
There is a continued need for researchers to challenge
exclusionary research designs through empirical and theoretical work that attends to power relations and rejects politics of research production that may disempower disabled
persons (Chouinard, 2000). I argue that researchers should
engage in nonexploitive relationships and facilitate cooperation and collaboration (Niesz, Koch, & Rumrill, 2008).
Sharing in research design promotes collaboration, reciprocity, and involvement in research processes; knowledge
production; and shared decision making (Chouinard, 2000).
Researchers must operationalize research methods that do
not exclude or mitigate participation of disabled persons
(Valentine, 2003). Offering a variety of interview formats
where people can act, move, and express themselves in
diverse modalities may address issues of accessibility.
Socio-spatial inquiry challenges exclusionary politics of
research production and researchers to posit increasingly
reciprocal work. Mobile methods are often informed by ethics of interconnectedness. Here, I suggest that researchers
have an ethical responsibility to research alongside disabled
persons, to research with disabled persons, and not to engage
in predatory research practices that advantage the research
1
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Corresponding Author:
Mark Anthony Castrodale, McMaster University, 1280 Main St. W.,
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4L8.
Email: mcastrod@uwo.ca
2
without reciprocation (Kitchin, 1999; Stone & Priestley,
1996; Zarb, 1992). At the center of this commitment is the
principle that disabled and Mad persons’ perspectives should
create empirical bases of research where their knowledge(s)
should be used to inform policies and practices impacting
them. Yet, the mobilities turn to inquiry (Cresswell, 2006;
Sheller & Urry, 2006) has largely ignored involvement of
Mad and disabled persons who might challenge notions of
the mobile subject. Similarly, Mad studies and disability
studies research has not substantively drawn on mobilityinformed qualitative inquiry with some exceptions (see
Blewett & Hanlon, 2016; Goggin, 2016; McClimens,
Partridge, & Sexton, 2014; Parent, 2016).
Go-along interviews are defined by researchers and participants moving together through socio-spatial environments, often while engaging in place-informed discussions
(Carpiano, 2009; Hein, Evans, & Jones, 2008). A go-along
interview may subject researchers and participants to less
controlled environments (Carpiano, 2009) and unforeseen
socio-spatial interactions than in traditional sitting face-toface interviews. Traditional interviews are often located in
rooms with controlled lighting, thermostat-regulated temperature, prearranged furniture, and occurring behind closed
doors. When conducted outdoors, go-along interviews are
subject to environmental conditions and changes in weather.
In a positivist tradition, interviews that were more clinical,
scientific, controlled, and objective were seen as ideal and
increasingly rigorous. In contrast, go-along interviews often
entail encounters in less controlled conditions and require
researcher-participant relationships grounded in reciprocity,
cooperation, respect, and trust.
In this article, I outline possibilities and limitations I
encountered while trying to enact mobile methodologies.
Specifically, I discuss my experiences enacting go-along
semistructured qualitative interviews with self-identifying
Mad and disabled research participants at two Canadian,
Ontario university sites. I discuss mediating factors that
shaped and constrained my use of go-along interviews and
my process of enacting and embedding accessibility as an
ethic throughout my research process. In this article, I discuss when research participants would rather not go-along. I
draw on my postinterview journaling to reflect on my methodological mismatch and why mobile methods were rarely
enacted with Mad and disabled research participants. I articulate the need for researchers to consider ableist/sanist structures when engaging in qualitative mobile methods.
Theoretical Frameworks and
Intersections: Critical Disability
Studies, Mad Studies, and Geographies
of Disability
This research is intersectionally situated within the fields
of Critical Disability Studies (CDS; Castrodale, 2015b;
Qualitative Inquiry 00(0)
Goodley, 2013, 2014; Liasidou, 2014; Meekosha &
Shuttleworth, 2009), Mad Studies (Beresford, 2000;
Beresford & Russo, 2016; Castrodale, 2015a; Church,
2015; Price, 2014; Reville, 2013), and Geographies of
Disability (Castrodale & Crooks, 2010; Gleeson, 1999;
Hansen & Philo, 1997; Imrie & Edwards, 2007; Park,
Radford, & Vickers, 1998; Worth, 2008). CDS and Mad
studies both draw directly on the often-subjugated knowledges of disabled and Mad persons to examine ableism and
sanism in society (Castrodale, 2015b). As such, they seek to
offer counternarratives that challenge the ways Mad and
disabled persons are often pathologized, labeled, and individualized through biomedical understandings of disability
and mental health. In particular, CDS and Mad studies
examine knowledge–power relations shaping how Mad and
disabled persons are constituted, represented, and how they
may act with agency to craft their own subjectivities and
challenge oppression. These disciplines thus frame my
onto-epistemological approach toward disability-related
research. The field of Geographies of Disability also
informs my commitment to examining the socio-spatial
oppression encountered by self-identifying Mad and disabled persons.
Discursive power–knowledge relations shape individuals’ subjectivities. Research sites shape participants’ and
researchers’ embodied subjectivities. Voice(s) have to find
their place(s) (Lather, 2009). It is thus beneficial to theorize
space and method (Gildersleeve & Kuntz, 2011) within
Mad and disabled research contexts.
Foucault (1972, 1979) and socio-spatial theorists, such
as Lefebvre (2009) and Soja (1989), provide a socio-spatial
theoretical framework to examine how university academic
accommodations may function as regimes of truths that discursively and materially shape the lives of disabled and
Mad students (Castrodale, 2015b). Foucault, Lefebvre, and
Soja advance theories of space that conceptualize space as
dynamic, shaped by actions. Furthermore, space and environmental structures discursively mediate peoples’ thoughts
and actions. People are constituted in space, and also (re)act
to shape those sites in which they inhabit, which Imrie and
Edwards (2007) consider to be the “recursive relationship
between identity and space” (p. 626). Such a philosophy of
space and subjectivity considers relationships between people, embodiment, identity, functional capacities, and spatiality. This approach is commensurable with disability
studies theorizing which locates disabling barriers and disablement in lived environments and not individuals.
Socio-spatialities may (re)produce maddening and disabling processes. There are no universally accessible
spaces; the ongoing struggle to (re)craft space is linked to
freedom from oppression. Complex socio-spatial institutional knowledge–power relations shape notions of dis/ability and how disabled students become understood as mis/
fits in university settings. Mad and disabled persons struggle against normalizing, ableist, sanist, and oppressive
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Castrodale
socio-spatial arrangements and seek to find and forge more
emancipatory spaces. Disabled and Mad persons also have
agency to (re)shape their socio-spatial realms and challenge
ableist oppressive societal barriers by acting in ways to (re)
craft their own spaces (see Castrodale, 2015b).
Qualitative Mobile Research
Methodology
In this article, I argue that research methods are mediated
through socio-spatial knowledge–power relations that
shape thoughts and actions. As McFarlane, Brookes,
McInnes, and Cross (2013) note on the importance of considering the role of space in the research process with disabled persons, “how you use space to do research or how
people experience their space and how that impacts on what
they might have to say” (p. 795) represents an important
deliberation. The places where research interviews happen
matters and discursively shapes discussions.
Mobile methodologies represent a paradigmatic shift in
social inquiry aimed at studying movement in socio-spatial
realms (Cresswell, 2010, 2012; Merriman, 2014; Urry,
2007; Sheller & Urry, 2006). As Sheller and Urry (2006)
attest, “issues of movement, of too little movement or too
much, or of the wrong sort or at the wrong time, are central
to many lives and many organisations” (p. 208). Attention
to movement of people and objects across space has been
deemed the “mobility turn” in the social sciences, introducing greater socio-spatial analysis (Sheller & Urry, 2006, p.
208). “Accounting for mobilities in the fullest sense challenges social science to change both the objects of its inquiries and the methodologies for research” (Sheller & Urry,
2006, p. 208). Hein et al. (2008) argue that mobile methodological approaches to interviews more readily capture
experiences of the environment through the material body
as we sense place and movement.
Disabled persons, with few exceptions (see Blewett &
Hanlon, 2016; Parent, 2016), have remained absent in sociospatial mobility-focused research. When included in mobility-focused research, disabled persons have been cast and
understood as predominantly immobile due to their lacking,
impaired, insufficiently able-to-move bodies that are in need
of rehabilitation. Yet, dis/abled subjectivities shape and are
shaped by space. People agentically craft spaces, and social
spaces also react back to mediate our embodied experiences
and subjectivities. Disabled persons experience “disablement as a complex set of social processes acting to constrain
or exclude people via the habituation of ableism in place”
(Blewett & Hanlon, 2016, p. 47). Our surroundings, interactions, thoughts, actions, and stylized repetitious movements
shape the materiality of bodies.
Methodologies that capture movement and mobility
reveal how people relate to particular spaces (Hein et al.,
2008). Where and how interviews take place may be dis/
abling. This is particularly the case if we understand dis/
ability as contextual, changing, and mediated by socio-spatial-temporal knowledge–power relations. Yet, spatial theorizing of interview settings is often absent in discussions of
how knowledge is socially constructed in research contexts.
Researchers rarely theorize how interview sites may shape
the knowledge(s) produced (Sin, 2003), which is something
I seek to do in this article.
Go-Along Interviews
Go-along qualitative research interview techniques often
entail researchers moving in social environments with participants while engaging in interview-inspired conversations. “Go-alongs combine the observation of everyday
activities (as practiced in participant observation) with the
respondent’s reflections as revealed in interviews” (Hein
et al., 2008, p. 1275). Go-alongs allow researchers to
observe their participants’ spatial practices in situ while
accessing their experiences and interpretations at the same
time (Brown & Durrheim, 2009; Hein et al., 2008). Often,
participants guide the tour and direct the movement of goalongs (Brown & Durrheim, 2009). Thus, mobile methods
capture complex interrelations between social actors in
space and our interdependency in movement together as
researchers-participants.
Go-alongs allow researchers to better understand and
perceive respondents’ daily interactions in local contexts
(Kusenbach, 2003). According to Kusenbach (2003), goalong interviews are well suited for exploring and examining (a) informants’ knowledge, perceptions, and values
guiding their experiences and interactions in social and
physical environments; (b) spatial practices and the ways
people engage with their lived environment; (c) the ties
between biography and place; (d) social architecture of natural settings and how individuals situate themselves in various social settings; and (e) social realms and how place
patterns and mediates social interactions. Go-along interviews allow observation and interaction with researcherparticipants in higher educational landscapes, as thoughts,
behaviors, perceptions, intentions, and social interactions
are mediated by particular institutional spaces.
I suggest that go-along interviews are more dynamic than
stationary interviews, as they actively engage participants in
interaction and movement with/in their lived environments.
As Carpiano (2009) states, “given that the respondent serves
as a ‘tour guide’ for the researcher, the go-along helps to
reduce typical power dynamics that exist between the interviewer and interviewee” (p. 267). Go-alongs thus increase
participation and may attend to power–knowledge relations
in the research process (Carpiano, 2009). Furthermore, goalong interviews may provide opportunities to meet and
recruit additional research participants en route (Carpiano,
2009). Some noteworthy limitations of go-along interviews
4
Qualitative Inquiry 00(0)
include conditions that are not in the control of the researcher
such as weather and the health of respondents (Carpiano,
2009). Yet, in the case of my study, issues of health/illness
and disability are part of the respondents’ lived realities and
institutional milieu as material bodies interact in space; thus,
these may also be considered as aspects of the lived and
navigated environment captured by the go-along interview
process.
Importantly, within CDS, I argue that “go-along interviews offer key advantages over traditional interviews
because they have the ability to focus on the person-place
relationship” (Blewett & Hanlon, 2016, p. 49). Go-along
interviews may represent a means for identifying processes
of disablement and able-bodied privilege in situ. Within the
person–place relationship, people must find space to fit in
particular sites, to locate themselves, and to move in a variety of ways or not move at all and stay fixed in place.
Go-along interviews thus may allow disabled persons to
reveal processes of disablement, barriers in built environments, and how policies and practices shape exclusionary
social realms (Blewett & Hanlon, 2016).
Research Method and Context
In my research, I drew on the perspectives of 14 self-identifying disabled students and three Mad students at two
Ontario university case sites. I also interviewed one university disability office worker and three university instructors
to offer triangulated accounts. I employed a case study
methodology (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2000; Stake,
2000; Yin, 2006) to generate insights into knowledge–
power relations shaping disabled and Mad students’ subjectivities. In my research, I addressed the following research
questions:
Research Question 1: How are disabled and Mad students constituted and represented in Ontario university
settings? How do they understand and constitute
themselves?
Research Question 2: What are Mad and disabled students’ socio-spatial university experiences in relation to
issues of access and academic accommodations? (see
also Castrodale, 2015b).
I most often identify as a temporarily able-bodied disability researcher, writer, university instructor, and disability advocate who has also experienced diagnosed depression
(see also Castrodale & Zingaro, 2015). I often approach
disability-related inquiry by working alongside others in a
sustained ethic to promote access, engaging in different
means and modes of communication(s) throughout the
research process, and by negotiating the timings and spaces
in which research takes place (Castrodale & Zingaro, 2015).
As a researcher who engages in critical qualitative sociospatial inquiry (Castrodale, 2015b; Castrodale & Crooks,
2010; Castrodale & Lane, 2015; Castrodale & Zingaro,
2015), it was important for me to draw on Mad and disabled
persons’ experiences to better understand their situated
socio-spatial experiences. My intention to operationalize
mobile methods in this context felt like a methodological
flop. Out of 21 total participants, three chose to partake in
mobile interviews. I used semistructured interviews that
took a variety of formats including face-to-face, mobile (goalong), telephone, and email correspondence (Castrodale,
2015b). I met participants at library settings, at off-campus
coffee shops, at their home, virtually via email, and by telephone—I met them where, when, and how they wanted to
meet. Interview methods were discussed and decided
together between researcher-participants, although as a
researcher my desire was to try go-alongs as a novel way to
appreciate participants’ situated socio-spatial experiences. I
realized there is no one size fits all approach to engaging in
disability-related research, and facilitating access requires
reflexivity, reciprocity, and ongoing onto-epistemologicalethical commitments (Rose, 1997).
I asked participants prior to and during research interviews why they desired their chosen methods. Participants
themselves provided rationales as to why they did not want
to engage in go-along methods. Through journaling and
interview transcripts, I documented these discussions in the
field and participants gave insights about socio-spatial
power relations mediating their choice of interview technique. In these mobile go-along interviews, movement was
to be guided and predominantly directed by participants.
Yet, in this article, I discuss times when participants opted
not to go-along and the implications this may have for
researchers who wish to engage in mobile research methodologies with Mad and disabled persons. I highlight specifically the perspectives of three participants.
Participants
Zoe is a first-year undergraduate female participant who
identified as nonvisibly disabled with working memory disability and process and speed disability. Stacey is a secondyear undergraduate, self-identifying Mad female participant,
and former street-kid with invisible disabilities. Annie C is
a second-year full-time PhD student who prefers places on
campus of which she is very familiar, that are comfortable,
and that do not make her body feel like an imposition. She
engages in Feminist social justice work and troubles fat as a
chosen embodiment in relation to discourses of fitness and
the ideal normal body. Annie C identifies as “death fat” to
counter biomedical terms such as obese and the biomedical
gaze that devalues fat bodies and to speak back to biomedical knowledges where death is always perceived at her
5
Castrodale
doorstep. Annie C blogs, engages in activism, and views
reclaiming space as a transformative act.
Analysis
For this article, the primary question guiding my inquiry
was “Why did participants trouble go-along interviews?”
Journals were hand-coded using a form of Foucauldian
(Foucault, 1972; 1979) discursive thematic socio-spatial
analysis (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). I approached
the analysis of research journals guided by a discursive
Foucauldian (Foucault, 1972; 1979) socio-spatial framework to examine issues of power–knowledge, surveillance,
normalizing regimes, disability-related discourses, the biomedical gaze, and subjectivity. The analytical process
involved five steps: (a) Researcher journal articles were
compared with initial participant interview transcripts
examining participants’ perspectives on mobile interviews
and broader institutional socio-spatial relations; (b) a list of
emergent themes was created; (c) codes were generated
based on themes; (d) researcher journal entries were handcoded; and (e) participants’ perspectives in interviews and
research literature were reviewed to (re)examine core
themes. Recurrent themes included surveillance and the
biomedical gaze, embodiment, and institutional barriers.
These themes also articulate participants’ relationships with
themselves and how they constitute and understand themselves while inhabiting, (re)crafting, and negotiating sociospatial environments. Participants noted that as Mad and
disabled persons, they were subject to increased pathologization, negative attitudes, and biomedical discourses of
rehabilitation and cure (Castrodale, 2015b). Their embodiments were related to physicality, impairments, aesthetic
bodily form, and movement. Institutional barriers they
encountered included physical structures and negative attitudes limiting their full participation in university as selfidentifying Mad and disabled persons (Castrodale, 2015b).
These explanatory themes, commensurable with my theoretical framework and empirical evidence from participants’
interview perspectives, guided analysis of interview transcripts and my own postinterview research journaling.
Institutional ableist/sanist attitudes and practices mitigated
participants’ desire to partake in go-alongs, along with
researcher and participants’ dis/abled embodiments.
Enacting Mobile Methods With
Disabled and Mad Persons
I discuss next factors enabling and constraining my use of
go-along interviews with participants. Mad and disabled
participants were reluctant to engage in moving/go-along
interviews for a number of reasons. My postinterview
journals detail some reflections highlighting the constraints and factors and forces enabling my use of goalong interviews with participants. Below I detail three
journal entries highlighting salient considerations and
ponderings shaping my researcher deliberations of goalongs. These journal entries best spoke to locating ourselves and finding an adequate interview site in relation
to ableist/sanist disciplinary regimes, and researcher-participant questions of embodiment. As I have noted above,
weather conditions of cold, wet, ice, and snow likely also
dissuaded participants from engaging in go-alongs.
Indoor and face-to-face interviews were favored. For the
three mobile interviews that took place, much of movement took place indoors, navigating university buildings
and hallway corridors. I wanted to use mobile interview
techniques to capture the socio-spatial experiences of disabled students in university settings. I drew on participants’ perspectives to appreciate and understand the
meanings of spaces in which interviews took place.
Finding Common Ground: Agreeing on a
Location
Participants chose interview location and technique. We
had researcher-participant discussions via email prior to the
interview about where and how interviews would take
place. Different interview methods (email, telephone, faceto-face, and go-alongs) were instantiated at participants’
requests in an effort to render the research process increasingly accessible by demonstrating openness through accommodating a variety of interview modes and techniques
(Castrodale, 2015b).
Zoe and I met in [University Site 1] library . . . We decide on a
location, it’s rainy outside making mobile interviews again
difficult. I mention that videotaping is a possibility and that I
am looking at socio-spatial impacts of disability-related
policies and practices. Zoe notes that she does not have a
mobility impairment, puzzled as to why space matters, or how
examining accessibility and spatial impacts relates to her in
that way . . . At the end of the interview I asked—“so what
made you want to participate in this study?” She noted, “well
my brain doesn’t work in ways like normal people—
nondisabled students, so I hope the system changes” noting
that her younger brother would be entering university and
wanted to encourage a more accepting environment. The
dialogue went back and forth, we were in a sort of visible
location in a library on the 4th floor, not entirely quiet, she
noted that this was good, that a little background noise helped
her concentrate and focus . . . I was concerned about background
noise, that my recording device wouldn’t pick up both voices,
that perhaps the device would be faulty or cut out, that our
conversation might be overheard. I asked about disability
pride, always struggling, worried about using language in
6
Qualitative Inquiry 00(0)
oppressive ways, not wanting to lead with questions, or
categorize with labels, asking about impairment and disabilityrelated experiences is something I approached with care,
pausing, using inflection . . . She took pride in [her disabled
identity], but also noted that other students did not, disability is
“not something most people take pride in.” (Castrodale,
Researcher Journal)
When deciding on an interview method together in discussions with participants, clarity of purpose and transparency in choosing a particular method or interview technique
may have encouraged more participants to engage in goalong interviews. Agreeing upon a location was quite significant, as this was a way to open up the research process
to be increasingly accessible and guided by participants’
desires to be located somewhere that is comfortable and
also has meaning.
Participants deliberatively selected locations that had
meaning, places they frequented more often—institutional
realms where they wanted to be. I worried about how noise
and sound might impact my recording device—would I be
able to hear our interview on the recording well enough for
transcription? My unease was also felt while asking questions with other social actors, feeling myself as increasingly
open to surveillance and scrutiny as a researcher. In many
ways, however, such democratized choice of interview
space, although not a go-along interview, still connected
where we did the interview, at the library in an open space
with chairs and much pedestrian traffic, to the participant’s
want for background noise and sounds. Zoe’s desire for a
sonorous space challenged my able-bodied notion that a
sound-free space would have been ideal as a place situated
for the interview.
I realized in this early interview (the second one conducted among 21 total) that I needed to clearly articulate
why mobile methods and go-along interviews are an interview technique I would like to employ. Interview method
was opened to scrutiny and questioning from participants. I
likely could have better explained my purpose and reasoning for go-along interviews in relation to this research; however, I also did not want to push my chosen methods on
participants and favored providing interview format options
decided in consultations together. Participants without
mobility impairments also troubled the use and purpose of
go-along interviews, often stating that they did not experience barriers in built environments and, therefore, did not
see the point of moving through the institution to discuss
barriers to access and academic accommodations. The
rationale “fit” between go-along interviews as a viable
method reflected in the intentions and purposes of this
research was questioned by participants, and rightly so. The
need to reflect deeper on the limitations of mobile methods
while engaging in research with marginalized persons is an
important methodological reflection. A methodological
technique of interviewing also entails a deeper questioning
of embodiment and lived experiences. When participants
are asked to move, the questions of how, why, and for what
purpose become salient considerations. Power relations in
institutional spaces enable and constrain movements. In my
study, participants with invisible impairments often did not
see the need to engage in go-alongs, as it was thought of as
a means to predominantly identify physical-structural barriers in the built environment, which they themselves, not
having any mobility impairments, did not encounter.
Familiar Space: Positionality and Location
I often met with participants at a particular campus location
that was agreed upon and left openness for participants to
find a place on campus to do the interview. In this way, we
moved together to find our place. I wrote about this in my
research journal.
Stacey and I met at [University Site 1]. I was approached with
the words “Mark” not in a bashful way, but with certainty. I
asked, “Where we should go from here?” Stacey—“How about
outside? I smoke, do you mind if I smoke,” she said. I tried to
read her body language . . . we spoke and smiled. I asked how
her year was going and off we went . . . My [researcher] role
was asked. [Stacey asked] What do you see this research
doing? What do you hope for this research? She shares a poem
describing the university as HOME. Home, with all its deep
meanings . . . a space that represents home, community. It is her
first home; the one she sleeps and stays at is her second. The
university as home is something I never considered. A safe
space, a social space, an activist space . . . Mental health issues
discussed, there was engagement, pride, Mad pride, activism .
. . She stood out . . . talking in courses (psychology) giving
lectures guest talks . . . We spoke as people walked about.
Sometimes feeling others close or watching. We were at outside
benches near the doors of the student centre chess table area
smokers’ section. This was her space; this was her community,
where friends met. This was where she took me. This was
where the interview took place, sitting down, not filmed, not a
mobile moving interview, but so much movement around us,
people, voices, all moving and blending about. Dynamic space
for an interview not a closed room, static, isolated space; it
makes things more real, lively, vivid . . . Disability as mental
health produced as a product of a life that was not easy, but
now also full of rich HOPE and optimism . . . Afterward, we
walked and spoke more. (Castrodale, Research Journal)
Interviews revealed how one’s positionality is interconnected with others and how social actors (re)act to craft
socio-spatial realms in which the interviews may take place.
Socio-spatial temporal norms (re)produce disablement but
may also create community spaces, spaces of comfort and
care (Freund, 2001). Bodies encounter other bodies, making sense of the world through interactions in sense-scapes
in moments of co-presence (Büscher & Urry, 2009). Even
Castrodale
though our interview was not a go-along, in many ways,
from the meeting at the library to walking together to the
sit-down tables, we found our place. Stacey shared with me
her place on campus. This was a site of community, a place
that richly represented home. She shared poetry with me,
and challenged me to think about where we were located for
this interview; we were in the place where she met her
friends and at one point in the interview we met another
person who briefly said hello and conversed before passing
by. Even though we were mostly sedentary, together we
gazed at others moving about, we talked about socio-spatiality in place, and this was moving. Remaining fixed, staying in place like centrifugal bodies, relationally moving as
bodies move around us, more than passive observers or
voyeurs, we challenged the parameters of what it means to
move. Motion is relative, as objects and people crossed
paths, moving together in time and space. After the formal
research interview concluded, we briefly walked and talked,
for moments becoming intentionally mobile together.
Bodies and Space: Where We Fit When Going
Along
Interview spaces may also illuminate oppressive structures
in the built environment, discourses surrounding fitness,
and bodily shape and form. Finding comfort means finding
one’s place. I met with Annie C who forever challenged me
to think about fat as a chosen embodiment and the implications of body-size and space. In this way, spaces were
understood as architecturally designed with a certain
Vitruvian body in mind, of particular proportions, height,
width, and weight. Not all people have equal mobility, control of mobility, and power (Sheller & Urry, 2006).
Institutional, oppressive structures (re)produce oppressive
structures mitigating movement.
Annie C identifies as “death fat.” I was immediately taken back
by this term, asking for clarification originally thinking it was
“def fat” (in my mind meaning definitely fat). She proudly
stated that she was unashamed of being fat, that critical fat
studies brought her to this point. Her identity tied to her
academic life and perhaps vice versa. I struggled to use her
language. Do I have the right to use it? Can I resonate with
what she was saying and repeat those words? Words such as
fat, represented a derogatory way of speaking of another
individual; to call her fat would be rude (wouldn’t it?). My
skinniness became obvious, my skinny male, white embodiedself felt odd sitting in this chair that was crafted for my body,
made for people like me. I felt uncomfortable; yet I knew that
this was a palpable discomfort, one that was likely fleeting,
temporary, and a confrontation with my own privilege that
would likely soon go away. She told me how certain chairs
with arms leave little space for her body, that she was ridiculed
in front of an entire lecture hall, that spaces are not designed for
her in mind, and that people actively create campaigns to
7
eliminate her body type. Her devalued embodied existence that
became known to me through her words was one that she
valued. She engaged in blogging, self-advocacy counternarratives reaffirming her own fat identity and self-worth. The
interview took place in a small room with a table; it was an
open, calm space, with natural light, bookshelves, couches and
pillows. It was bright, clean, carpeted, and airy. People could
enter and leave as they pleased, but it was a space for her
program, where individuals came to read, eat, and chat. She
said she chose it because this was her space. Because the chairs
in here didn’t all have arms, because the table felt right, and she
knew it. I was welcomed into this space by Annie C, and doing
the interview here brought me closer into her world. Her body
movements, gestures, took up space, she sometimes would
scrunch her body, noting that even doing so, she occupied
space, and that was what she did, her embodied existence was
always attached to socio-spatial awareness—one that was
heightened and ongoing. She spoke of ebbs and flows of people
in the hallways and how the current of people would drift more
quickly around her, along the “edges” as she moved in the
middle. A mobile interview wasn’t desired; I offered one, but I
think the idea of moving about through the campus heightens
scrutiny and surveillance; this made it not the ideal method for
doing such research. It had to be thrown out once more.
(Castrodale, Research Journal)
Participants often noted they were concerned about heightened exposure to surveillance. Movement through the institution via mobile interviews was thus considered to be
risky. Annie C noted how her body, through a dominant
ableist-gendered pathologizing biomedical gaze, was read
as unhealthy, unfit, and devalued. She articulated how space
matters and how she was very aware of institutional space
designed not with her body in mind. Spaces are thus integral
for embodied movements (Merriman, 2014). Through critical approaches to disability and space, Annie C was able to
speak to the alienation and oppression she encountered and
the importance of occupying space and challenging others
to understand those spaces we all occupy and inhabit. To
create increasingly accessible and inclusionary spaces
would entail valuing diverse raced-classed-gendered-sexeddisabled-bodies at the intersections.
Researchers often focus mobility inquiry on certain
mobile subjects, active movements, and may advance “a
rather limited sense of what movement and mobility are”
(Merriman, 2014, p. 177), with little “attention to infrastructures, technologies, materialities, and spaces that are
integral to the embodied movements of human subjects”
(Merriman, 2014, p. 177). Fat embodiment devalued in
institutional spaces recognizes how not engaging in mobile
methods may attest to how spaces are structured to limit
movement, block access for Annie C. Immobility is not
rooted in the individual but in institutional structures, policies, and alienating attitudes. Embodied agency (Freund,
2001) of disabled persons is thus a necessary consideration when engaging in mobile methods. The university
8
was revealed as a site that privileges not just normal or
able-bodied ways of being “the university is the place for
the very able” (Dolmage, 2008, p. 166). Universities represent exclusionary spatio-temporal realms predominantly
designed by and for the exceptionally able (Dolmage,
2008).
Reconsidering Go-Alongs
Disabled and Mad participants connected surveillance to
the increased potential of experiencing greater disciplinary
consequences (Castrodale, 2015b). Disabled participants
noted consequences, such as being known as disabled stigmatized devalued lesser persons who are also speaking
negatively about the institution (Castrodale, 2015b). Being
known by others was thus a salient concern particular for
participants with nonvisible disabilities who noted that in
many circumstances they were able to pass as able-bodied
individuals and disclose their disability at their own discretion. Disabled participants with nonvisible disabilities
thereby controlled when and with whom they entrusted
with knowledge of themselves as disabled persons. While
participants with visible disabilities, some of whom used
mobility devices, noted that navigating the institution had
exclusionary barriers, steep steps, inaccessible washrooms,
areas with too much pedestrian traffic, and doors without
accessible push-button openers. The institution was an
exclusionary space that was difficult to move within
(Castrodale, 2015b).
Methods may reveal much about a researcher’s own
positionality and privilege (Chouinard, 2000). I was disappointed by the lack of interest in go-along interviews. Yet,
upon deeper reflection, although I was eager to move with
participants, I needed to reflect more deeply about my own
ease and access afforded by my White able-bodied mobile
privilege to move in institutional spaces without discrimination or increased exposure to a pathologizing biomedical
gaze. Mobility and movement thus represent sites of access
and privilege. Eager to move with participants, I did not
beforehand question my own able-bodied ease and access
to move in higher educational sites.
As a White, male, able-bodied researcher, I had to
unpack my own socio-spatial privilege, of which I learned a
great deal from my participants. When female participants
noted unsafety and real threats of violence on university
campuses, I realized my male-patriarchal gender privilege.
When participants who experienced steps instead of ramps
were excluded access to buildings, my able-bodied privilege and mobility, “the very act of walking . . . [as] a natural
ability” (Parent, 2016, p. 524), was again exposed. A participant who identified as “death fat” showed me how chairs
were designed with my skinny body in mind, and here, I felt
my body shrinking in my seat—a seat that was made by
people like me for me. My postures, my movements, and
Qualitative Inquiry 00(0)
my visible embodied Self afforded me a normative comfort
and institutional ease of movement and access.
Mobile methods may also provide deep insights into
able-bodied, socio-spatial privilege. Although I most often
identify as an able-bodied individual, I disclosed and discussed my past experiences with depression as a nonvisible disability with certain participants (see Castrodale,
2017; Castrodale & Zingaro, 2015). Yet, as a White, ablebodied heterosexual researcher, I moved through institutional spaces with few boundaries, physical or attitudinal,
limiting my use and occupation of higher educational
spaces. With few exceptions, I was able to enter and exit
various institutional realms as I pleased. I walked the hallways, opened doors, traversed steps, accessed printed
materials, and socialized with others. I fit quite well within
institutional socio-spatial-temporal norms, and it was a
very neat fit.
Mobile interviews highlight relationships between people and socio-spatial environments. As Devault and Gross
(2012) attest, “ability structures interview encounters in
powerful ways” (p. 214) and able-bodied researchers
should be cautious about assumptions where “interview
techniques are designed with particular verbal and cognitive capacities in mind” (p. 214). Accessibility concerns
relating to physical and attitudinal barriers represent a significant rationale shaping participants’ desires to engage
in particular research interview methods.
I suggest researchers should consider the following
when engaging in go-along interviews with disabled and
Mad participants:
1. Go-along interviews may heighten the visibility/
possible exposure to disciplinary surveillance
through a biomedical gaze aimed at marginalized
Mad and disabled persons in the institutional
environment.
2. Go-along interviews may (re)expose participants to
oppression relating to barriers, physical and attitudinal, limiting their access in particular built
environments.
3. Participants questioned the use of mobile interviews
as a methodology, often asking why engage in moving interviews. This was often related to research
participants’ own embodiments and presence or
absence of mobility-related impairments; thus, it is
important to consider participants’ and researchers’
own material embodiments.
4. Traditional interview methods may be more familiar, and thus, people may favor such methods. In my
research, face-to-face sit-down interviews were
seen as the standard predominant interview style.
5. Practically, mobile interviews are unpredictable and
outdoor weather conditions mediate researcher-participants’ desire and ability to do the interview.
9
Castrodale
6. Go-along interviews may result in unforeseen conditions, circumstances, and social interactions that
require way-finding and navigational decisions to
be made as to where to go next, requiring trust,
interdependency, and joint decision making on the
part of researchers and participants.
Conclusion
There is a need to reflect more deeply on the use of mobile
methods and the methodological limitations of mobile
methods in research with often-marginalized persons, specifically Mad and disabled persons. Mobile methods may
capture unique socio-spatial experiences and thus represent
a viable tool for understanding institutional layers of
oppression inscribed in space. Yet, in the case of Mad and
disabled persons, there is a need to consider methodological
fit of interview method—who, where, and why mobile
methods may be instantiated. In this article, I discussed
times when mobile interviews were troubled, when they did
not happen or take place in the ways I had imagined.
Nevertheless, questioning mobility throughout the research
process revealed much about why participants selected the
interview sites they did. Interviews took place at sites that
had meaning for participants. Democratizing where the
interviews took place opened avenues of agency and voice.
Disabled and Mad participants purposefully selected those
places that mattered and had meaning to them in ways that
challenged institutional dominant able-bodied norms and
privilege.
Initially, I believed that the fact that most participants
opted not to engage in mobile methods was a shortcoming
of my research and demonstrated a poor choice of method.
I felt it was a personal failure where I did not select the right
tools to get at the types of socio-spatial knowledge(s) I had
envisioned. I now understand go-along interviews as not
representing an ultimate destination or series of indiscriminate locations but as a cultivated relationship between Self/
Others/Space(s) where we all find ourselves.
There are some places we all cannot go. Unpacking
no-go places challenges vectors of privilege and reveals
ableist and sanist attitudes and practices operating to craft
where we can go and where people may not enter, or enter
provisionally so long as they operate within dominant contextual socio-spatial-temporal norms. There is a need to
thus unpack these liminal spaces in-between Self-Other and
our relationships in space (Fine, 1998). Fine (1998) refers to
working the hyphen between Self-Other as introspective
thinking about how people are constituted, and how our
subjectivities interconnect, and are mediated by power–
knowledge webs.
Mad and disabled participants may trouble able-bodied
research practices, the normative spaces and paces of
research. My own embodiment as a researcher was opened
to scrutiny, and participants revealed my able-bodied privilege to me through their insights. Mobile qualitative inquiry
requires unpacking socio-spatial relationships to understand
not only how people are positioned but also how societal
spaces may position us. Moreover, engaging in mobile
methodological research demonstrates how research moves
us, entails movement, and how any movement through
space is a socio-political act. When research is immobile,
that also speaks to the factors mediating how we move, who
can move freely, and when and why me might stay put—
fixed in place.
Through trying to go-there with my participants, I realized that going anywhere with others entails relationships,
mediated through broader systemic structures. Mad and disabled participants identified ableist and sanist socio-spatialtemporalities as creating access barriers limiting their
participation. Universities represented exclusionary and
disabling spaces (Dolmage, 2008). The deeply embedded
sanist/ableist nature of university settings is reflected
through physical barriers, negative attitudes, and pathologizing surveillance. These disciplinary layers of oppression
made go-along interviews a tough sell for many of my Mad
and disabled participants. The go-along interview is political, as an interview technique it represents a rich tool to
open up new spaces, places, and platforms for the oftensubjugated voices of Mad and disabled persons to enter,
counter socio-spatial inequalities, and proliferate. Now, can
we go-along?
Acknowledgement
I would like to thank Dr. Valorie Crooks for her insights and for
suggesting go-along interviews. I would also like to thank Dr.
Wayne Martino for his academic vision and support.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author disclosed receipt of the following financial support for
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This
research was supported by an Ontario Graduate Scholarship.
Note
1. In Mad studies, the term Mad is reclaimed from its pejorative roots to counter systemic oppression encountered by
persons often deemed “mentally ill.” Mad persons often
identify as having direct experience with mental health systems, psychiatric violence, mental health–related pathologizing discourses, and normalizing biomedical regimes of
cure. For a more comprehensive discussion of Mad studies as a field of inquiry and activism, see Mad Matters:
A Critical Reader in Canadian Mad Studies (LeFrançois,
Menzies, & Reaume, 2013).
10
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Author Biography
Mark Anthony Castrodale completed his PhD in Education at
Western University (Canada) with a particular interest in examining the socio-spatial experiences of self-identifying Mad and disabled students in higher education. Castrodale focuses on sociospatial inquiry, militarism, education policies and critical
pedagogy, and has been published in Disability Studies Quarterly,
Disability and Society, the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies,
Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, Atlantis, the
University of Alberta Press, and the Canadian Journal for the
Study of Adult Education. He draws on the fields of Mad Studies
and Critical Disability Studies as a way to trouble ableist and sanist attitudes, policies, and practices.
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