[T]his study asks, How is pugilistic intentionality, the “aboutness” of that particular form of skilled social action, practically constituted; what social ingredients enter into its manufacture; through what pedagogical techniques is it transmitted and validated; and what can its social genesis, inculcation, and unfolding teach us about the logic of any practice, and thereby about the vexed nexus of body, mind, and society?Wacquant, 2005, p. 442
This final chapter takes the next step, offering concrete advice about how to design and conduct the kind of research that I have recommended in the preceding chapters. Like the instructions given to Eduardo Kohn, my advice may at first seem opaque. Certainly, it is not separable from the preceding chapters; it represents suggestions for how to put into practice the abstract considerations of those chapters. These suggestions cannot be successfully applied without familiarity with those considerations.
I shall use as an illustration of the techne of this kind of research the investigation by Loïc Wacquant that I have already mentioned. Wacquant's research into the world of professional boxing, centered on a gymnasium in Chicago's South Side, offers an example of one way to align the components of qualitative research as a scientific study of the constitution of human beings.
It is important to reiterate that qualitative research is interpretation, through and through. It is not a Romantic hermeneutics that tries to penetrate to a hidden truth, but it is the kind of hermeneutics that operates “on the surface” of phenomena, articulating what is not usually noticed because it has been taken for granted.
We saw in Chapter 8 that interpretation is always organized by a “forestructure” (see Figure 16.1). In any research project, you will need (1) to gain access to the phenomenon you wish to study in its involvement within a whole situation (your fore-having). You will have (2) a question that arises from an interest, and this provides a perspective from which to engage the phenomenon and understand it (your fore-sight). You will also have (3) preconceptions that provide an interpretive framework (your fore-grasp). These constituents of the fore-structure organize (4) the understanding you obtain through practical involvement with the phenomenon. The character of this practical involvement takes different forms in ethnographic fieldwork, in the study of ontological work, and in interviews.
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