Friendship as Method

as Method

I first bumped into Friendship as Method in 2003 while surfing in Google. I was starting to design my anticorruption research for my dissertation in Ateneo, which was also part of my work for the Ehem Anticorruption Project of the Society of Jesus. I was experimenting on an appropriate method that would suit a pressing anticorruption problem that was difficult to dwell on. I was already deciding on the problem of bureaucratic fixing and the modus operandi of fixers in government offices. As a very unique and a fresh, brand-new type of research method, Friendship as Method came in very handy as I also utilized Undercover Ethnography and Network Analysis as part of my conceptual and methodological frameworks.

Friendship as Method was developed by Dr. Lisa Tillmann-Healy from the Rollins College in Florida. It appeared as a journal published by Sage in 2003. The journal was a result of her dissertation and a book in the 1990s about gay sexual relationships. As a unique discipline in qualitative inquiry, Friendship as Method is very useful in anthropological and ethnographic research designs.

Employing Rawlins (1992), Tillmann-Healy adhered to a definition of a friend as "somebody to talk to, to depend on and rely on for help, support, and caring, and to have fun and enjoy doing things with."

She further adhered: "Similar to romantic and family relationships, friendship is an interpersonal bond characterized by the ongoing communicative management of dialectical tensions, such as those between idealization and realization, affection and instrumentality, and judgment and acceptance."

Friendship as Method aims to take a special look at the processes of friendship, intimacy and understanding as helpful and useful elements in conducting qualitative research -- as a methodical frame and a fieldwork at the same time. As a methodical frame, it serves well as a qualitative inquiry using the lens of friendship -- its processes, dynamics and ethic. As a fieldwork, it sets the boundaries where human friendships take place and where people enter into these relationships as friends. In a capsule, Friendship as Method simply means to do good research with the "ethic of friendship, stance of hope, caring, justice, even love." This is a warm, engaged research with meaning. Friendship as Method serves as a good commentary to the cold, distantiated and uninvolved tendencies of the mainstream research endeavors employed by many researchers and scholars.

Tillmann-Healy's Friendship as Method is endowed with the following features that are beneficial to researchers and scholars alike:
  1. The method serves as perfect entree (entry points).
  2. The method elicits data out of natural environments (friendships).
  3. The method preserves the natural environments (ethic of friendships); the method is not to invade and exploit the processes of friendship in the name of research.
  4. The method reveals that ordinary human relationships (friendships) connect with some conceptual and theoretical frameworks. It takes some scholarly adroitness to be able to capture cognitive principles from affective relationships.
  5. The method provides an interesting challenge for theory-building.
  6. The method allows a lot of creativity for the researchers (research is art).
  7. The method evokes endless insights about human emotions.
  8. The method employs a very engaging research design; the researchers are themselves part of the research process.
  9. The method can even enhance better understanding of friends and friendship as a human process.
  10. Apart from method, friendship is also a fieldwork in the post-modern school of thought where human relationships take place.

Amorado, Ronnie V. 2007. Fixing Society: The Inside World of Fixers in the Philippines. Davao City: Ateneo de Davao University - Research and Publication Office.

Rawlins, W.K. 1992. Friendship Matters: Communication, Dialectics and the Life Course. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Tillmann-Healy, Lisa M. 2001. Between Gay and Straight: Understanding Friendship Across Sexual Orientations. Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press.

Tillmann-Healy, Lisa M. 2003. “Friendship as Method.” Qualitative Inquiry Volume 9, Number 5. Rollins College: Sage Publications.