Travels with a Donkey: Further Adventures in Social Research

Anne Pirrie, Gale Macleod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article is intended as a contribution to the debate on the epistemology of educational research. The latter is construed as an ethical project that brings with it a distinctive set of power relations, and entails a degree of self-effacement on the part of the researcher, a subordination of the self to the internal logic of the task in hand. The conditions within the academy that inhibit the development of these qualities are briefly outlined, as is the status of the academic as an awkward hybrid between animal laborens and homo faber. The authors build upon earlier work that drew upon ethnographic research on walking and a comparative anthropology of the line in order to develop a new approach to understanding the relation between movement, knowledge, description and measurement in social research. They bring into dialogue the notion of wayfaring elaborated by the anthropologist Tim Ingold and Richard Sennett's socio-cultural exploration of the realm of the craftsman. By drawing extensively on Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van, they begin to open up perspectives for further debate on the literary turn in social research.But we are all travellers in what John Bunyan calls the wilderness of this world – all, too, travellers with a donkey: and the best that we find in our travels is an honest friend. He is a fortunate voyager who finds many. We travel, indeed, to find them. They are the end and the reward of life. They keep us worthy of ourselves; and when we are alone, we are only nearer to the absent. (R.L. Stevenson, Preface to Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes [1879/1982])
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-281
Number of pages12
JournalPower and Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009


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