By Rosalind Edwards (IJSRM Co-editor)
The ‘radical critique’ of interviews is a broad term encompassing a range of differing positions, but a shared element is an argument that interviews are not a method of grasping the unmediated experiences of research participants – that is, the content of the interview data. Rather, the enactment of the method, of interviewer and interviewee exchanges, is data – that is, the form. The critique has been the subject of a scholarly exchange of views in the Journal, drawing attention to agreements and distinctions in debates about radical critiques of interview data in social research.
In a themed section of the Journal on ‘Making the case for qualitative interviews’, Jason Hughes, Kahryn Hughes, Grace Sykes and Katy Wright contributed an article arguing that the focus on interviews as narrative performance (form) leaves in place a seemingly unbridgeable divide between the experienced and the expressed, and a related conflation of what can be said in interviews with what interviews can be used to say. They call for attention to the ways that interview data may be used to discuss the social world beyond the interview encounter (content).
Jason Hughes, Kahryn Hughes, Grace Sykes and Katy Wright – ‘Beyond performative talk: critical observations on the radical critique of reading interview data’.
Emilie Whitaker and Paul Atkinson, responded to their observations, to argue that while their work (cited in Hughes et al.) urges methodologically-informed, reflexive analytic attention to interviews as speech events and social encounters (form), this is not at the expense of attention to content. Indeed, they say, there cannot be content without form.
Emilie Whitaker and Paul Atkinson – ‘Response to Hughes, Hughes, Sykes and Wright’.
In reply, Hughes and colleagues state their intention to urge a synthesis that prioritises a focus on the content of interviews and the possibilities for what researchers can do with it, just as much as a critical attention to its form.
Jason Hughes, Kahryn Hughes, Grace Sykes and Katy Wright – ‘Response to Whitaker and Atkinson’.
The renditions of these constructive exchanges are my own, and may not (entirely) reflect those of the authors.