More than a ‘snooping stranger’: the kaleidoscope of the equine ethnographer

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Gold’s (1958) typology of ethnographic roles as ranging from complete observer, observer as participant, participant as observer to complete participant is often quoted as describing the options available to the ethnographer.

In this paper, I reflect on my experience of conducting an ethnographic study in an equine livery yard in Scotland. The study was designed to illuminate what makes a ‘healthy’ livery yard experience for horses and humans and here I consider the role(s) I was afforded and adopted in the field. Prior to engaging in the fieldwork, I had not fully conceptualised the depth and complexity of the research relationships that I would experience. Consequently, in this paper, I consider how my role(s) oscillated between being observer as participant and participant as observer, but more than that, I examine what these role characterisations actually meant in practice in the field location where my role(s) changed both in and through time and included being an ‘outsider’, a ‘snooping stranger’, an ‘activity organiser’, a ‘horse carer/rider’, a ‘yard worker’, a ‘motivator/supporter’, a ‘researcher friend’ and even a ‘conciliator’. It was incredibly challenging to balance, manage and operationalise the multiplicity of relationships and roles - of being more than one thing to more than one person (the kaleidoscope of the ethnographer) - within the setting.

I explore the emotional impact of the role development both on myself and on the research, together with the coping mechanisms employed, including the supportive part played by the research supervisor.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2015
Event5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Jun 201512 Jun 2015


Conference5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Equine ethnographer
  • Ethnographic study
  • Equine livery yard
  • Horses


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