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Session Overview
RN20_05: Situatedness and Data Collection I: The Power of Situations and Going Along
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Uwe Flick, Freie Universität Berlin
Location: UP.3.209
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Third Floor Oxford Road

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Going Along Strained Creativity

David Wästerfors1, Hanna Egard2, Kristofer Hansson1

1Lund University, Sweden; 2Malmö University, Sweden

This paper reflects on the potential of ‘go alongs’ – in Kusenbach’s version – within ethnographic disability studies. Despite noble policy declarations about an accessible society, people with disabilities still face numerous obstacles in their everyday life, sometimes emerging here-and-now, and thereby hard to predict, prevent or even name. When we go along persons with disabilities in urban settings in Sweden, they are given a spatial and discursive arena in which to display and explain their daily accessibility troubles. So far, the informants have shown and narrated what seems to be a set of ethno-methods to overcome or manage various barriers, such as (a) using others, (b) making deals, (c) following routines, (d) “piggybacking” the conventional, (e) debunking inaccessibility accounts and (f) doing politics. Disabilities are still, as Fred Davis put it in the 1960s, expressed in “a pronounced stickiness of interactional flow”, but today this is revolving not only around difficulties for others in relating to persons with disabilities but also around a particular tension that is continually situated: a celebrated ideal of universal access in combination with scanty practice. When we as fieldworkers accompany individual informants in their daily routes and errands, there seem to be fruitful opportunities to get a glimpse of what might be called today’s strained creativity among persons with disabilities inside this tension. The paper argues that to use go alongs can work as a way to understand both the everyday frustration when handling inaccessibility today, and the everyday basis of political frustration among disability movements regarding a “too slow” struggle against discrimination. Policy-driven evaluations, on the other hand, seem not able to fully grasp these things.

Towards a Situational Understanding of Qualitative Interviews

Marte Mangset1, Anders Vassenden2

1Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway; 2University of Stavanger, Norway

This paper extends on discussions after Jerolmack and Khan’s article ‘Talk Is Cheap’, which proclaims ethnography as superior to interviews, in regards to whether people’s accounts and attitudes reflect their actual behavior. Criticisms followed from DiMaggio, Cerulo, Maynard, Vaisey, and the debates have been picked up by e.g. Lamont and Swidler. One central theme in these debates, explicated in most detail by Maynard, is the micro-interactionist notions of the social situation and the interaction order. Fruitful as these debates are, there has been fairly little subsequent elaboration on understanding the interview as a social situation. We contribute by discussing the methodological implications of the perspective that interviews are locally produced realities in themselves. We revisit Goffman’s microsociology, and his notions of interaction order and face-work, while also highlighting a neglected issue in an influential branch of cultural sociology – the French pragmatist school’s (Boltanski & Thevenot) emphasis on peoples’ creative capacities to switch between situations, situations that relate to different macro-cultural resources. Next, we discuss two studies of middle-class cultural distinctions (or lack thereof): Investigating the same topic, Skarpenes and Jarness make contradictory conclusions. Their disagreements, we argue, pertain to their respective interviews being different social situations, which entailed different cultural repertoires. For further illustrations, we use examples from own research (top-bureaucrats; cultural capital). The task ahead for qualitative sociologists, we argue, is to reflect critically upon how researcher and interviewee co-construct the interview as a social situation, and next, which situations outside the interview that any given interview may mirror.

Expanding The Concept Of Situatedness Through The Notion of Temporality.

Jennie Kristina Olofsson

Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

This presentation engages in a critical reading of Donna Haraway’s concept of situated knowledges (1988) through the notion of temporality. As a methodological tool, the concept of situated knowledges challenges objectivity and universalist understandings of knowledge in that it aims to demonstrate the subjective character of objectivity, and more specifically, the situatedness of scientific knowledge production. Reading Haraway’s outline of the concept of situated knowledges, it is noteworthy that she frequently employs spatial metaphors, in particular anywhere, nowhere and somewhere, to illustrate the idea of situatedness. Saying this, while the concept of situated knowledges takes into account the location and embodiment of the researcher subject, less is said about the researcher’s constraint to particular temporal frameworks. As such, Haraway’s notion of situatedness seems temporarily oriented towards the researcher’s present.

Inspired by the work of Barbara Adams (1998), Rob Nixon (2011), Kim Fortun (2014) and Erin Fitz-Henry (2017), this presentation engages in potential ways in which Haraway’s concept of situated knowledges can be used as a means to acknowledge questions that adheres to temporality, and more specifically the short-time temporalities that characterizes much of contemporary (capitalist) life. Haraway has indeed showed the importance of acknowledging the researcher’s own situatedness when it comes to space, and elaborating on the concept, this presentation aims to show that the positioning of the researcher subject is not temporarily indifferent.

Passivity and Resistance in Focus Groups: Analysing Power Relations and Identity Performances in Interview Settings

Anu Katainen1, Riie Heikkilä2

1University of Helsinki, Finland; 2University of Tampere, Finland

It has often been argued that the focus group method has a potential to democratise social scientific research as it permits participants’ own voices to be heard in their own terms. While the objective of the focus group method is usually to enable interaction and to provide a natural setting for joint production of accounts on a given topic, interaction is never neutral but always involves positions of power. Moreover, participation requires both capabilities and reflexive skills that depend on resources and forms of capital that are bound to social position.

The paper draws on the experiences of a focus group study that examined adolescents’ meaning-making of alcohol in different social class milieus. In the discussions, significant variation was found in the ways the participants reacted to the study setting and interacted in the groups. Thus, rather than concentrating on the outspoken attitudes towards alcohol use, we ask what kinds of roles participants mobilized in order to mark their positions. We further analyse these roles as situated identity performances.

We concentrate especially on passive and resistant participant roles that may appear problematic in terms of what kind of data is produced. We argue that resistance or passivity can be viewed as actively taken positions that reveal how participants interpret the setting and what kinds of competences they are able and willing to mobilize in the situation. We conclude that identifying participant roles is especially important in studies that involve minors or other vulnerable groups.

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