For many researchers, methodology and joy don’t belong in the same sentence. Legal researchers in particular often seem to place methods-talk somewhere between irritating impediment and unbridgeable chasm. Some of these anxieties are well founded: law school legal methods courses are wildly divergent across institutions, a disparity that becomes sharper when contrasted with similar training in other humanities and social science departments. But much of this fear is perhaps less well-founded: driven by a belief that law scholars don’t need, or do, methods. That somehow, the tools in our wheelhouse are self-explanatory, or unobtrusive, or understood. The upshot either way can be a reluctance to name what it is that we are doing. This is unfortunate because it doesn’t show the rich variety that exists, and is possible, in different methodological approaches to legal scholarship. The capacity to be ‘methodologically thoughtful’, as Halliday & Schmidt put it, is about ‘possessing the capacity to move from the naïve understanding of one’s project to the more sophisticated, and to discover the questions, theoretical potential, and epistemological problems latent in one’s engagement with the world as one sees it’.
This blog carnival emerged from the intuition that there might be a great deal of creativity and fun to be found in being ‘methodologically thoughtful’. Instead of thinking about methodology as being limiting, dry or po-faced, we invited contributions that approached it as generative, irreverent – perhaps even fun.
Our contributors responded with an array of joyful meanderings, which we will share over the next three weeks. There are experiments with form: recorded dialogues, diaristic entries, a eulogy to methodology. Some of our contributors sketch, while others dance. The familiar becomes strange: footnotes are re-enchanted, legal interpretation is re-vitalised. Unexpected laughter pierces a difficult interview, while meanderings in the archive become entertaining screenshots that are shared with friends.
If the methods we choose are also a choice about how we might live with our research, our methodological revelers suggest that exploring ways of seeing and doing can, and should, be actively joyful.
Kate Leader, Danish Sheikh and Illan rua Wall