ASA10: The Interview - theory, practice, society
Queen's University, Belfast, 13/04/2010 – 16/04/2010
Corporealities, cognition and the interview
Location Lecture Theatre LT5
Date and Start Time 14 Apr, 2010 at 14:30
This panel focuses on the relevance and use of interview techniques for an understanding of corporeal practices and experience, and of the tacit knowledge which informs these. We invite theoretically or ethnographically oriented presentations which address methods fostering a reflexive approach.
This panel focuses on the relevance and use of interview techniques for an understanding of corporeal practices and experience, and of the tacit knowledge which informs these. We take as premises that all action is inherently meaningful and contextually situated, and that, in order to make sense of what is at play in the course of a given activity, observational inferences are inadequate and interview techniques are the best means available. Examples of such techniques which aim to resituate the respondent in the lived context, to assist in focusing on experience, and to elicit verbalisation on action include the phenomenologically inspired explicitation interview (Vermersch 1994), stimulated recall from video film, and so on. We invite theoretically oriented or ethnographically based presentations which address any of these or other more recent, innovative methods all of which foster a reflexive approach to the elucidation of the corporeal and of practical knowledge.
Chair: Georgiana Gore
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Men of their words: making sense of men's corporeal practices through interviews
Drawing on fieldwork in the medieval military re-enactment scene in Latvia, this paper explores the ways in which the interview can become the means for a woman anthropologist to access the corporeal experiences of her male research subjects.
A multitude of cross-gender ethnographic research in anthropology has long since subdued qualms about the possibility of understanding - and fairly representing - the gendered Other. There exists, however, an issue that seldom gets raised in this context - the fact that the material level of experience of certain practices remains forever unattainable for an ethnographer studying the opposite sex. In an environment where masculinity plays a central role, only a male ethnographer can move beyond merely observing the research subjects and actually participating, as has been so impressively shown by Loic Waqcuant in his Body and Soul (2004). For a female anthropologist to create an intersubjective understanding of her male informants, other possibilities for understanding corporeal experiences have to be explored.
The re-enactment of medieval warfare in Latvia is as much a men-only microcosm as Wacquant's Chicago boxing gym. Even though my presence as an anthropologist is well accepted, the rules that ban other women from participating in tournaments and battles also apply to to me. In the paper, I will be looking at ways in which bodily experiences get reiterated in interviews, making the interview a space of re-enactment itself, where the ethnographer and the informant provoke each other's cognitive and bodily knowledge while working at finding words that would give justice - and meaning - to the "manly pursuits".
The explicitation interview: investigating the pupils' corporeal experience in a contemporary dance class
This paper addresses how dance pupils' corporeal experience was accessed through interviews. The explicitation interview allowed me to help focus the verbalisations on a specific lived moment and thence on the description of the unfolding action and its sensory and emotional dimensions.
Trying to understand the transmission of corporeal experience as lived by amateur adult pupils in a contemporary dance class, especially during the preparatory work based on Iyengar yoga, it appeared to me that only interviews could provide the information I sought. Indeed, this yoga work is based mainly on verbal instructions, accompanied by descriptions and explanations. As a consequence, observation and video documentation show pupils involved in an activity with a certain intensity, displaying a deep concentration, and trying to do what they are enjoined to do. But in no way do they allow us to know what they are really doing, to understand how the instructions work the corporeal experience, how the pupils go about trying to respond to the instructions and how the different explanations and the numerous 'descriptions in terms of kinaesthetic sensation' (Goldfarb) resonate. Interviews seemed the only way to access these private data.
However, the difficulty lies in the fact that interviews usually take place afterwards and that all lived experience includes a certain implicitness in its very accomplishment. It is in order to bring this implicit to light that CNRS researcher Pierre Vermersch devised the technique of accompaniment called the explicitation interview, which aims to bring the verbalisations of the interviewee back to a specific lived moment, and from there to the description of the unfolding action, which is intimately linked to its sensory and emotional dimension.
It is this techique that I shall present, along with the results it enabled me to obtain.
From gestures to sensory judgments: using video-interview method to elicit mundane and professional skills.
Cooking, as a practice using hands and tools, is often reduced to its gestural dimension even by experts themselves. To provide insight about cognitive and sensory dimensions of judgement made during cooking, an ethnographic method using video and explicitation interviews has been developed.
Cooking, like many practices using hands and tools, is often reduced to its gestural dimension even by experts themselves. In the case of an industrially applied ethnographic study, we aimed to understand other dimensions of the skills needed to perform culinary tasks in professional and domestic setting. A general methodological sketch has been developed to provide insight about cognitive and sensory dimension of skills within a paradigm of distributed and situated cognition. Cooking activities were filmed and actions and decision procedure were elucidated thanks to explicitation interview strategies. By focusing on the sensory judgment occurring in the lived experience, the study focus on skills defined as situated performance - using beats of knowledge and information distributed in the culinary space - to described what is commonly describe as tacit knowledge.
By comparing two research strategies - in a semi-experimental setting (professional cook working in an experimental kitchen) and a "real-life" setting (domestic cooking) - I would like to foster the development of video-interview method in the field of sensory anthropology. In particular, I will discuss three issues:
- How far can we know what's in mind during a practical event?
- How to compare sensory abilities thanks to verbal data?
- How to connect daily activities to the semi-controlled task and artificial methods of video-interview?
A method for the constitution of experience
Our research focuses on the cognitive basis of rugby referee's experience. We view practical knowledge as embodied knowing which is only manifest through action in a particular situation. Accordingly, the method developed constitutes an aid to return to the intended action and to verbalise it.
Our research focuses on the cognitive basis of rugby referee's experience. We view practical knowledge as embodied knowing which is only manifest through action in a particular situation. First, we consider that practice is embedded in its context action, is not dissociable from situation, nor from cognition: it is impossible to understand the practice outside of its local setting. In the tradition of ethnological research, rugby referee's activity is thus apprehended in a usual situation, in the way it was done, and in its singularity - and not only through the referee's discourse. Second, an exterior observation seems neither sufficient to account for, nor to explain the referee's experience. It is important to consider one's own way of living, of perceiving, of making sense of one's situation… to consider one's own world. The difficulty lies in the fact that the subjective side of practice stems from an embodied meaning. But the actor is considered to be a reflective practitioner. Any actor is capable of reflection, but it is not a position that is spontaneously adopted towards his/her own action. He/she tends to use abstract knowledge in order to describe his/her actions, especially referees. Accordingly, the method developed constitutes an aid to return to, to reflect on, the intended action and to verbalise such action. In this paper, we present this new method of investigation which allows the investigator to dialectically link an image, the actor's situated subjective perspective, with a type of interview that focuses on phenomenological experience, the subjective re situ interview. We present how this kind of method is a means to study referee's experience in different sports contexts.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.