Irrelevant? - Constructing knowledge out of nonsense
1University of Copenhagen; 2SFI The Danish National Centre for Social Research
In this paper, we discuss passages in qualitative interviews, which do not, at a glance, appear to carry any significant meaning. We regard these passages as discursive deviations, or nonsense that disrupts rather than contributes coherence to the interviews. From a symbolic interactionist perspective, we conceive of the qualitative nonsense as ‘irrelevant’, i.e. as challenging the interviewers’ attempt to capture the respondents’ accounts and narratives. We argue that, for qualitative research, even nonsense can be useful data that enables us to better understand the people and cultures that we study. Drawing on four independent sociological studies, in which we interviewed a total of 150 socially vulnerable or socially stigmatized people, we have analysed eight specific examples of apparent discursive nonsense. The first study took place at a Young Offender Institution in Denmark, the second inside conventional Danish pigsties, the third with drug addicts in back alleys in Copenhagen, and the fourth in the private homes of parents, who had a child placed in out-of-home care. We analysed the passages of nonsense in relation to their interview settings and the different social contexts of the interviewees. The nonsense, we conclude, expose often overlooked social aspects of contemporary morality and sociology, such as coping with violence and shame, or letting go of the senses in an attempt to escape a particular social reality.
How to be creative in the field and at the desk? Creative thinking in qualitative research.
University of Lodz, Poland
I would like to present the possibility of broadening the traditional methodological and technical skills of researcher and analyst but also the intellectual capacity of the researcher associated with combining data, categorizing, linking categories, as well as the interpretation of the causes and consequences of the emergence of certain social phenomena. Some methodologies, methods and research techniques are more conducive to creative conceptual and interpretative solutions. Therefore, I describe the serendipity phenomenon in such methodologies as grounded theory, ethnography, phenomenological research and contemplative inquiry. The problem of intuition in qualitative research will be also described in the paper.
From the review of issues of creativity in qualitative research we can derive the following conclusions:
1. Creativity in qualitative research depends on the strength of a priori conceptualization and stiffness of the adopted methods of research and analysis.
2. If the methodology is more flexible (as the methodology of grounded theory) the researcher can get to phenomena that have not realized of, and which are still scantily explored in his field of expertise.
3. The phenomenological and contemplative approaches allow the use the investigator’s feelings and experience as they appear in the studied phenomena, which usually do not take place in objectifying and positivistic research.
4. The investigator may therefore consciously use these methodologies and approaches that foster creativity.
5. The researchers can improve their skills in thinking and creative action by doing some methodical exercises (journal writing, writing poetry as a summary of the collected data, the use of art as representation of the phenomenon, the use of meditation, observation of the body feelings etc.).
The humor approach in a multi situated ethnography with Roma groups: becoming a reflexive researcher.
State University of Bergamo, Italy
The paper analyses one of the most used research tools, the ethnographic diary, written during a multi situated ethnography carried out with three Roma groups: Sinti in Italy, Roma in Romanian and Calòn in Brazil, from 2009 and 2014. The main focus of the principal investigation were the effects of relations of power between those minority groups and democratic institutions (such as schools, local police and social services). However the topic of this paper isn’t the Roma people as it would be expected, but the researcher and her reflexive learning process on the field.
The first part of the paper focuses on three theoretical approaches frames within which: the reflexivity of the researcher in ethnographic field work, humor as approach for doing social research with labeled groups and humoristic writing as a deuteron learning strategies to discover more about themselves, own frames and their effects on the relationships with people involved in the research. The second part of the paper describes the experience of a complementary diary writing, the humorous column (named S.P.Q.R.) based on the same ethnographic material. The “Sono Pazzi Questi Ricercatori” (Those researchers are crazy) colum consists of several episodes written with an ironic style describing critical and intercultural incidents, embarassing or funny circumnstances happened in the field. In this narrative humor becomes a mean through wich the author reaches a deeper awareness of her own limits, frames, and meaning about what was happening during the fieldwork. Therefore, this peculiar version of reflexivity and of reflexivity writing, becomes an attitude of research, a matrix of thought.
Reflexivity as a Methodological Resource
JGU Mainz, Germany, Germany
Questions of quality standards in methodology are often raised in a normative, rather than in an empirical way. This is reflected in the fact that the everyday practices of social and cultural studies have been excepted for a long time from Science and Technology Studies, that have moved everyday activities of the sciences, i.e. their practices, into the focus of sociological research. This is the case even though important sociological thinkers like Bourdieu, Garfinkel or Luhman have placed sociology within their social theory and even though reflexivity has been the topic of a downright fervent debate. In the last few years, however, a considerable number of studies has been concerned with (qualitative) sociological research in practice, that is with the sociological description of sociological work. Interestingly these studies do not draw a connection to questions of methodology; some of them explicitly refuse to do so, for they understand it as a primarily normative concern.
In my paper, I claim that the reflexivity inherent to this practice (qualitative research) can be understood as a valuable methodological resource. Thus, questions of methodology can be raised on an empirical basis. Particularly I suppose to start questions of methodology by closely examining the research practice, as I will do based on empirical data from a qualitative study on air-travel. In this way we gain a deeper insight into the dynamics and procedures of this research practice and can thus develop quality standards on a profound basis.