Projekti “Just the Two of Us? Affective Inequalities in Intimate Relationships” osallistui Nordic Sociological Associationin vuoden 2016 konferenssiin Helsingissä 11.-13.8. Marjo Kolehmainen ja Tuula Juvonen koordinoivat työryhmää nro. 31: “Post-Qualitative Methodologies in Social Sciences”. Neljällä kokoontumiskerralla osallistujat useasta eri yliopistosta ympäri maailmaa pitivät yhteensä 13 esitelmää meneillään olevista tutkimuksistaan. Marjon ja Tuulan lisäksi myös Raisa Jurva sekä Annukka Lahti, jotka molemmat ovat väitöskirjatutkijoita projektissamme, esittelivät tutkimustaan työryhmässä.
Tämä tekstin on kirjoittanut omasta näkökulmastaan Emppu Nurminen, joka toimii harjoittelijana projektissa. Emppu valmistautui konferenssiin lukemalla journaalin Cultural Studies<->Critical Methodologies erikoisnumeroa ”New Empiricisms and New Materialisms” (2016) sekä muita artikkeleita, pääasiaassa Elizabeth A. St. Pierreltä sekä Mirka Koro-Ljungbergilta
Close encounters with the post-qualitative
For me, post-qualitative research is difficult to grasp because it feels so different compared to what I am used to: so far, my cup of tea has been staunch post-positivist research oriented towards the study of discourses. Whenever I ask questions from people actively engaged in post-qualitative research, I feel as though I cannot quite put my questions into words, to convey my thoughts understandably – I get the curious feeling of ending up asking something different from what I meant. It could be an indication of how deep the existing categories of thought are seated, at least in my thinking.
Problems in the background of mainstream qualitative research
In post-qualitative research, the standardization, normativity and implicit positivist leanings of existing qualitative methods have come under scrutiny. Post-qualitative research often seeks to let data retain its multiplicity of potential interpretations by not capturing and controlling it via applying standardized methods (Greckhamer & Koro-Ljungberg 2005, 738). Also, many qualitative methods, originating from the US and Europe, have colonial legacies (Connell 2016, lecture; Gobo 2016, lecture) which may affect their usability, for example, in non-white, non-middle class or non-Western contexts.
Several post-qualitative accounts take up the problem of the representativeness of language. ‘Philosophy of representation’, according to St. Pierre et al. (2016, 103), refers to the idea that language can ‘mirror the world to the mind’. However, poststructuralists have critiqued this extensively: using language would, rather, seem to be about making choices, with each alternative inevitably non-neutral and inaccurate. Thus, language is political and subjective – the meanings cannot be locked in place and there is always something uncontrollable and elusive in a sentence or a word.
Another strand of critique argues that Western scientific thinking has followed René Descartes’s cogito – the abstract rational knowing subject contemplating the known – as the foundation of gaining accurate knowledge (St. Pierre et al. 2016, 102). The Western metaphysical system has been founded upon the idea of things possessing stable and capturable essences and it has tended to privilege the human, male, visual and rational. This has led to marginalization, mistreatment and violence towards other genders, animals and the environment. Thus, striving away from this foundationalism and constructing less hierarchical, anti-foundationalist ontologies becomes a deeply ethical issue (St. Pierre et al. 2016, 101).
‘Post-qualitative methodologies in social sciences’ – bringing it to research
A post-qualitative approach is likely to shift the focus of interest somewhat in social scientific qualitative inquiry – for example when it comes to understanding the body. Bodies are thought as multiplicities of entities and attention is often paid on the actions of bodies and on what bodies do – in contrast to focusing on the meanings research participants ascribe to things. The body can be thought in terms of energies and flows, bodies are in a constant flux, changing, affecting others and being affected by others.
Many post-qualitative accounts emphasize the importance of experimentation with possibilities (St. Pierre et al. 2016, 99–100; Koro-Ljungberg et al. 2015) and finding one’s own way of conducting research. Constructing clear boundaries of the known–knower, data–analysis, theory–method are avoided. The knower does not exist before or independent of the known but only in relation to it (St. Pierre et al. 2016, 103) (also known as relationalism). The so-called ‘objects of research’ are not ‘given’ (St. Pierre 2016, 115–116) to us but dependent on the instruments they are measured with and the way research is conducted.
The researcher, in many post-qualitative accounts, is thought as a socially located, feeling being with ascribed characteristics; the production of knowledge is thought as being always situated, as in many branches of feminist research. However, the researcher is not always the same and is constantly becoming in the research process. Past and imagined futures entangle in the researcher’s present which, along with materiality, affect on what is recognized and considered as data. Thus, ‘collecting data’ has no clear points of beginning or ending, it happens during all ‘phases’ of research and is, to some extent, accidental. Doing research could be an intensely affective process and could involve strong empathy or detest toward some participants. To cope with this, it helps if the researcher is sensitive to one’s own biases and one’s role in creating the data. (The ‘Post-Qualitative Methodologies in Social Sciences’ –working group 2016).
Following this, in post qualitative research data are likely to be multi-faceted, non-representational and non-linguistic; not limited to traditional verbal transcripts (see for example: St. Pierre 1997, 179). An example of thinking data differently is the concept of ‘touch biography’, introduced in the NSA working group by Marjo Kolehmainen and Taina Kinnunen (2016, presentation).
Greckhamer, Thomas; Koro-Ljungberg, Mirka (2005) ’The erosion of a method: examples from grounded theory’ in: International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, vol. 18, no. 6. Pp: 729–750
Koro-Ljungberg, Mirka; Carlson, David; Tesar, Marek and Anderson, Kate (2015) ’Methodology brut: Philosophy, Ecstatic Thinking, and Some Other (Unfinished) Things’ in: Qualitative Inquiry, vol. 21, no. 7. Pp: 612–619
St. Pierre, Elizabeth Adams (1997) ’Methodology in the fold and the irruption of transgressive data’ in: International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, vol. 10, no. 2. pp: 175–189
St. Pierre, Elizabeth A. (2016) Jackson, Alecia Y; Mazzei, Lisa A.:’New Empiricisms and New Materialisms: Conditions for New Inquiry’ in: Cultural Studies <-> Critical Methodologies, vol. 16, no. 2. pp: 99–110
St. Pierre, Elizabeth A. (2016) ’The Empirical and the New Empiricisms’ in: Cultural Studies <-> Critical Methodologies, vol. 16, no. 2. pp: 111–124
Connell, Raewyn (11th August 2016) ‘A more powerful, more loving, more radical sociology is possible.’ Keynote lecture at NSA 2016 conference in Helsinki
Gobo, Giampietro (12th August 2016) ‘Creolizing sociological methodology’ Keynote lecture at NSA 2016 conference in Helsinki.
Kolehmainen, Marjo; Kinnunen, Taina (12th August 2016) ‘Touch and Affect: Registering affect in/through touch biographies’ -presentation in working group: ‘Post-Qualitative Methodologies in Social Sciences’ at NSA 2016 Conference, Helsinki. (http://nsa2016.cdn.geniem.com/content/uploads/2015/12/NSA2016_AbstractBook.pdf)