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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: August 2018

Part II - Ethnographic Fieldwork – The Focus On Constitution


In the first part of this book, I have followed Thomas Kuhn&s lead and examined the common practices of qualitative research today in order to see what epistemological and ontological commitments were embedded in them. In the conduct and analysis of semistructured interviews we found the assumption that subjectivity is an inner, mental realm that contrasts and yet coexists with the objectivity of an outer world. We found subjective experience contrasted with objective knowledge. The latter is abstract and general, so that subjective kinds of knowing must be extracted from their context, their indexicality must be repaired, and commonalities must be found across individuals in order to arrive at objective statements. We also found contradictory metaphors for language. Language is a conduit. It is a repository of concepts, names for objects and events. It is a joint production.

In the last two chapters, I started to explore a more adequate ontology and epistemology. I traced the history of hermeneutics from the aim to understand a spoken or written text by reconstructing the author&s subjectivity to the view that the meaning of a text is an event, the effect it has on a reader or listener. This event is an application of the text by the reader to their current situation.

If we apply this to interviews, we see them as a joint production of discourse that, in its use of linguistic devices, especially tropes such as metaphor, invites a new way of seeing the world – or a new world to see. Analysis becomes a matter of examining this poesis to articulate how it works, to explicate how the discourse was skillfully designed to have various effects.

I suggested in the introduction that qualitative researchers are not aiming high enough and are not asking sufficiently interesting questions. When it comes to the qualitative research interview, the most common way to obtain empirical material, the aim has been to describe subjective experience, ‘to understand the world from the subjects’ points of view, to unfold the meaning of people's experiences, to uncover their lived world prior to scientific explanation’ (Kvale, 1996, p. 1). It has become clear that we could have been asking, should have been asking, how we learn about people when we talk to them, when we read what they have said.

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The Science of Qualitative Research
  • Online ISBN: 9781108264907
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