ASA10: The Interview - theory, practice, society

Queen's University, Belfast, 13/04/2010 – 16/04/2010

(P06)

The interview as imagined space: authentic data and the extraordinary occasion

Location Lecture Theatre LT5
Date and Start Time 16 Apr, 2010 at 09:00

Convenors

Katherine Smith (University of Manchester) email
Nigel Rapport (St. Andrews University) email
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Short Abstract

The panel welcomes papers which explore the implication of the interview, how it is imagined and used as a space to discuss ideas/experiences which may not be expressed in everyday conversation, what this may imply about notions of 'authentic' data and the ways ethnography is conducted and recorded.

Long Abstract

An elemental part of modern social practice is the reflection and realisation of human ideas and subjectivities, and their detachment from the moment of experience, as ideas are discussed in conversation with others. Within the context of ethnographic inquiry, the interview itself may, then, play a crucial role in eliciting information which would otherwise not be discussed in everyday life and conversation. 'People may become easily analytical about their own and others' experiences in an interview situation'. The interview may be seen to provide a space for the detachment and envisioning of subjectivities at a particular moment in time, and in a particular moment of experience. As the anthropologist explains the role of the interview as the furtherance of respect and awareness of other ways of life, individuals may choose to resist or disagree with social norms and expectations. Framed and legitimated through the context of the interview itself, individual freedom to express particular, perhaps personal, views and imaginations may take precedence over wider social expectations. What is the implication of the interview and how is it imagined? How are ideas expressed and compared to wider social expectations? This panel welcomes papers which explore the implications of the interview, how it is imagined and used as a space to discuss ideas and experiences which may not otherwise be expressed in everyday conversation, as well as what this may imply about notions of 'authentic' data and the ways in which ethnography is conducted and recorded.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Anthropology as Engaged Listening: An Ethnographic Study

Authors: Martin Forsey (University of Western Australia)  email
Jenny Hockey (Sheffield University)  email
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Short Abstract

We want to open up the possibility of considering ethnography as participant listening, to place the notion of engaged listening on a similar footing to participant observation in conceptualising ethnographic practice. We argue the case for interview-based studies to be considered ethnographic, asserting that research interviews are culturally appropriate ways of participating in social spaces located in a globalized world that is often chaotic, uncontrolled and unmanageable

Long Abstract

We want to open up the possibility of considering ethnography as participant listening, or more usefully perhaps to place the notion of engaged listening on a similar footing to participant observation in our conceptualisation of ethnographic practices. We do not seek to create a new dogma, or a fresh set of false equations, rather the aim is to ask fellow anthropologists to look again at what we say we do and consider this up against what we actually do. It is a truly ethnographic enterprise. There are two reasons for doing so; firstly because it is intellectually interesting to scrutinise ethnographic practice and to consider some of the possible gaps in our awareness and knowledge; secondly because of the discomfort expressed by some colleagues, especially postgraduate researchers, emanating from a deep sense of inadequacy because they are not doing a classical (we call it mythical) participant observer study. Using the two part equation outlined above, if traced backwards we can start to imagine the dilemmas faced by some who can feel their disciplinary identity to be slipping away from them when involved in interview based studies. This response is particularly pronounced among those anthropologists conducting research "at home" (Hockey 2002). We argue the case for interview-based studies to be considered ethnographic, asserting that research interviews are culturally appropriate ways of participating in social spaces located in a globalized world that is often chaotic, uncontrolled and unmanageable (Passaro 1997; c.f Hockey 2002; Forsey In Press).

'Different times' and other Altermodern possibilities: Filming interviews with children as ethnographic 'wanderings'

Author: Angels Trias-i-Valls (Regent's College)  email
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Short Abstract

Drawing upon ethnographic research on gift exchange in Catalonia, this paper seeks to explore the implications of filming-whilst-interviewing children and on interview processes as instances of ‘wandering’ both in terms of relations and in terms of imagined spaces during the ethnographic encounter.

Long Abstract

I want to consider the possibility of looking at the anthropological interview from an 'altermodern' preposition in order to consider the interview as a form of 'wandering' and a 'time specific' imagined space within ethnographic relationships. In the past year I have been experimenting with Borriaud's (2009) concept of the altermodern (the named period after postmodernity's death ) as a playful concept from where to re-narrate ethnographic encounters, and very particularly, the interview. Altermodern prepositions emphasise on 'journeying' and on the reconfiguration of globalised, in crisis, 'chaotic' cultural landscapes, with a core preoccupation with 'docu-dramas' and interviews (Bourriaud 2009).

Using filmed interviews in order to locate children's participation on gift exchange, the interview allows for a re-telling of personal stories and for children to 'giving movement' to the interview whilst not necessarily as it happens, engaging with it as such. The interview with children, filmed or otherwise, highlight the capacity of the interview, as an ethnographic form, to challenge how we narrate our participation of social spaces.

In this context, I view the interview as a place of different positionality of subjects admist interactions of specific albeit different times 'heterochronia' (ibid) and new communicative practices. I look at the interview as trespassing relationships between the people engaged on it, and inducing a sense of mobility, allowing for different ways of relating to and translating voice and individuals trajectories during an interview and to allowing for an ethnographic stance to be developed along with it.

talking culture: dealing with 'authentic rhetoric' in interviews

Author: Nick McCaffery (Queen's University Belfast)  email
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Short Abstract

Drawing upon ethnographic research from Hopi and Northern Ireland, this paper seeks to explore the difficulties of dealing with apparently standard responses

Long Abstract

What happens when those being interviewed assume responsibility for the direction of the research? Drawing upon research within two politically sensitive societies (Hopi Indians and Northern Ireland) this paper explores the complexities of gathering 'authentic' data in interviews. At Hopi the presence of 'professional' informants, apparently well versed in the art of the ethnographic interview, reflected a method of assuming control over cultural representations. Moving beyond these essentialised representations was crucial to discovering the voice of 'ordinary' Hopis, who were clearly no less authentic, despite their protestations; even though it was this essentialised picture of Hopi culture that many Hopis wanted the world to see (as opposed to existing inauthentic representations based on stereotypes). Compare this situation with analysis of ongoing research in Northern Ireland amongst youth and young people. Here, the researcher found himself faced with a world of rhetoric based on peace and reconciliation. It was frustrating at times that those being interviewed were simply repeating social values that they thought the interviewer wanted to hear; even though by expressing these themes in an interview context they were reinforcing to themselves the virtues of peace and reconciliation.

How is the ethnographer best able to deal with these 'authenticated' responses in an interview context? Is it ethical to challenge the actions and words of participants who are generally only trying to help? Can the ethnographer move beyond the socially accepted versions of culture in politicised societies, and get to another more real set of perspectives?

Talking and acting for your rights: the interview in an action research setting

Author: Ana Lopes (University of East London)  email
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Short Abstract

Drawing upon action research with sex workers and sex worker activists, this paper seeks to explore the role of the interview in action research settings.

Long Abstract

This paper draws upon action research project in which the ethnographer turned into a participant in and facilitator of a collective effort that led to the unionisation of sex workers in the UK.

I want to explore the way in which the interview in action research contexts can be used as a tool for action planning and generation, as well as 'authentic' data generation. As the ethnographer turns action researcher, she becomes a co-producer or co-generator of knowledge that is relevant for action. What are the ethical issues involved in this relation?

To what extent can the agenda of the interview be appropriated by those being interviewed as a tool to critically understand structures of power and seek social change? Within the action research context, where power relations are challenged and interviewer and interviewees share a practical/political agenda, the interviewer sometimes becomes the interviewee. What happens then? Can the interview in this context be used as a tool for the development of a 'bottom-up' anthropology?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.