ASA10: The Interview - theory, practice, society

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

(P12)

The use of the Interview by peer and user researchers with 'seldom heard' groups

Location Lecture Theatre LT5
Date and Start Time 16 Apr, 2010 at 14:30

Convenors

Joe Duffy (Queen's University, Belfast) email
Delyth Edwards (Queen's University Belfast) email
Sarah Machniewski (Queen's University Belfast) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel discusses the opportunities and challenges that can emerge when the interview is designed and conducted by service user/peer researchers as a method for accessing the views of marginalised groups and individuals through building trust and sharing power in the interview situation.

Long Abstract

This panel will discuss the opportunities that can emerge when the interview is designed and conducted by peer researchers to access the views of groups and individuals who are 'hard to reach/seldom heard'. The panel members will provide examples from their published and ongoing research where academic and peer/service user researchers have effectively engaged respondents in meaningful two-way exchanges in which trust was built in interview situations. In these contexts the respondents, based on past negative experiences of 'involvement' and 'consultation fatigue', may have been both highly suspicious and sceptical towards participation.

Panel presentations will consider whether, by genuinely attempting to deal with imbalances of power and control in the interview situation, researchers have greater opportunities to access better quality information through learning from the interview techniques employed by service user/peer researchers as collaborators in such endeavours. Evidence could be presented to show how effective the peer or user interview is as a means for both gaining the trust of respondents and for ensuring that the research findings and recommendations have subsequent meaningful impact. Furthermore the challenges involved in endowing peer researchers with the appropriate skills to interview and the accompanying advantages and disadvantages will be discussed. An important element of the latter will involve discussion about how involvement in interviewing can in turn develop the capacity of the peer researcher for involvement in future research activity.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The use of the Interview by service user researchers with marginalised groups

Authors: Joe Duffy (Queen's University, Belfast)  email
Ann McGlone (Willowbank Ltd)  email
Patricia Cushley  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

This paper examines the opportunities and challenges that can arise when service user researchers interview others who similarly experience social exclusion.

Long Abstract

This paper examines the opportunities and challenges that can arise when service users interview others who similarly experience social exclusion. Researchers with experience of physical disability interviewed members of the Travelling Community and other groups to access their views about health and social care provision as part of a study on user involvement and participation in health and social care in Northern Ireland. In these contexts the respondents were suspicious and sceptical towards participation based on negative past experiences of 'involvement' and 'consultation fatigue'.

Evidence will be presented to show how effective the interview then was as a means for gaining the trust of respondents and for ensuring the research findings and recommendations had subsequent meaningful impact. This paper argues that by genuinely attempting to deal with imbalances of power and control in the interview situation and by focusing on trust building, researchers can access better quality information which will in turn result in meaningful influence in terms of research recommendations.

Many of these groups in this research study had never been interviewed before but agreed to do so based on the genuineness and trust which was achieved by the user researchers. This sense of 'relationship' was also influenced by involving service user researchers in interview design and analysis of results. Consequently we believe that the quality of data gathered and research findings published would not have been so effective in terms of impact both on policy development and in the ongoing capacity of user researchers.

"Telling us your hopes": Ethnographic lessons from a communications for development project in Madagascar

Author: Antonie Kraemer (SOAS)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

The paper explores how participative methods can inform anthropology by analysing a development project of peer to peer life history interviews. It explores how participatory interviews conducted between villagers themselves help to capture the views of marginalised groups and individuals.

Long Abstract

This paper will explore ethnographic lessons that have arisen as part of my PhD fieldwork. While investigating changes in natural resource access related to mineral mining in south eastern Madagascar, I got involved with an NGO project on oral testimony. The project aims to communicate the life histories of marginalised villagers in areas near the mining sites. The project methodology was one of peer to peer interviews, based on training villagers in doing interviews and using voice recorders, with the interviews subsequently broadcast and published. The project proved analytically rich both in terms of experiencing how an NGO "communications for development" project makes use of ethnographic methods, and how the villagers themselves interpreted this experience.

Using extracts from the life histories and analysing the overall project, the paper will evaluate how anthropological methods can be informed by "communications for development" initiatives. Shortcomings will also be highlighted, in particular the gap between NGO intentions and local understandings of the project purpose and outcomes. The paper will consider the inherent limits to "empowerment" projects and the gap in respective needs of donors and "beneficiaries". The need for development anthropology to acknowledge methodological innovations from outside the discipline will also be discussed. As such, the paper aims to explore how participatory interviews conducted by peer researchers help to capture the views of marginalised groups and individuals, through building trust and sharing power in the interview. Finally, the paper calls for a publicly engaged anthropology communicating research findings both to informants and decision makers.

Knowing Me, Knowing your Mum: (Auto)biographical researching

Author: Delyth Edwards (Queen's University Belfast)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

The theme of this paper will consider the benefits and also the drawbacks the biographical background of the researcher can have when researching a seldom heard group; the Orphan. Being the daughter of an orphan has been advantageous in my research, but has not guaranteed easy access or trust from all potential interviewees.

Long Abstract

This paper is based on my ongoing PhD research which aims to explore, through the application of the (auto)biographical interview and the analysis of the life (hi)story, how women who grew up in a catholic and girls only children's Home in Belfast during the 1940s and 1950s interpret and re-tell their biographies and the ways they (re)construct experience and ontology (or ontologies) of the self (Hankiss 1981).

Orphan hood is seldom dealt with in biographical research because of the stigma attached to such a concept, a biography. Very rarely do people disclose to have been brought up in care, even to their own families. Being the daughter of an orphan has presented me with a certain understanding and familiarity with my research and with my interviewees, which has been both enabling and debilitating.

The paper will expand on issues that have arisen from the gaining access process and interview sessions. Firstly, the paper will begin with a brief consideration of the term 'orphan', what it means in society and what it means to my participants. Secondly, the discussion will move on to consider the unexpected complexity involved when gaining access. Thirdly, the paper will shift to consider the interview experiences I have had so far and the advantages and disadvantages being 'Lily's' daughter has had on the interview setting. Finally the paper will conclude with a consideration of the benefits (auto)biographical interviewing can have for understanding and listening to seldom heard groups from their point of view.

'People like us can't say that': The Irish professional social class talk about their attitudes to immigrants

Author: Martina Byrne (Trinity College Dublin)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

This paper draws on preliminary results from the first in-depth qualitative peer research into the attitudes of the Irish professional social class towards immigrants, a social class which, surprisingly, feels its ‘voice’ on immigration is muted by ‘political correctness'.

Long Abstract

This paper draws on preliminary results from the first in-depth research into the attitudes of the Irish professional social class towards immigrants in contemporary Ireland. This qualitative peer research examines what informs these attitudes, and if/how racialised Irish and 'other' identities are constructed. Despite, or because of, their socio-economic and political power, the intersection of the professional social class with immigrants is under-researched throughout Europe. This research addresses that gap and problematises the 'common-sense' acceptance that professionals have, by virtue of their social class position and education, positive attitudes towards immigrants.

Undertaking peer research, as well as enabling access, positions me as 'more than a stranger, less than a friend' and reduces the amount of generic information offered, moving the interviews towards the personal -for the interviewer too- so it is useful to code my conversation too. The interviews are as close as possible to informal peer conversations.

With sensitive topics such as race, ethnicity, and immigration there is a tendency for interviewees to avoid issues and certain words, however even with these subjects informal in-depth interviews yield rich data for attitudinal analyses. My background also equips me with knowledge of the cultural norms and discourse nuances of the interviewees which helps with coding.

Contrary to expectation, the participation rate is almost 100%, even among longitudinal interviewees. Also, contrary to what some sociologists might think, this social class feels its opinions on immigration are not elicited and that 'political correctness' has muted their 'voice'.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.