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'We must put ourselves in the position of the subject who tries to find his way in this world, and we must remember, first of all, that the environment by which he is influenced and to which he adapts himself is his world, not the objective world of science.'

W.I. Thomas
and
F. Znaniecki

Qualitative Sociology Review
2008
Volume IV Issue 1


Author-Supplied Abstracts & Keywords


Robert Prus
     University of Waterloo, Canada

On the Pragmatics and Problematics of Defining Beauty and Character: The Greek Poet Lucian (120-200) Engages Exacting Portraitures and Difficult Subjects

Although best known as a satirist of the classical Roman era, Lucian's (c120-200CE) Essays in Portraiture and Essays in Portraiture Defended provide considerable insight into the problematics of people knowing and defining objects (along with the consequential and related matter of people sharing their definitions of reality with others). Engaging notions of admiration, beauty, and character in these two statements, Lucian not only faces the task of establishing viable frames of reference for linguistically defining the essence of a woman deemed to be particularly beautiful and gracious but also assumes the challenge of defending one’s preferred definitions of particular subject matters from others who do not share these views.
Whereas Lucian uses the works of prominent sculptors, painters, poets, and philosophers as reference points in articulating beauty and grace, this paper also acknowledges the perils of people who sincerely express their viewpoints on others even when these descriptions of others are cast in clearly positive terms.
Lucian may be a lesser-known classical Greek (Syrian) author, but he is an astute observer of human endeavor. Lucian’s work on portraiture also has a striking cross-cultural and transhistorical relevance for a more enduring pragmatist emphasis on human knowing and acting. Not only is Lucian (a) explicitly attentive to the necessity of people establishing frames of reference for describing objects to others in meaningful terms, but he also overtly recognizes (b) the multiple viewpoints that people may invoke with respect to describing particular objects, (c) the resistances that people may encounter from others, and (d) the importance of speakers articulating the foundations for their claims amidst contested notions of reality.
Approached from an interactionist perspective (Mead 1934; Blumer 1969; Strauss 1993; Prus 1996, 1997, 1999), wherein attention is given to the more general matters of people acquiring perspectives, defining objects, and sustaining particular notions of reality, this paper uses Lucian’s materials on portraiture as a cross-cultural and transhistorical resource both for assessing (and qualifying) existing interactionist conceptualizations of human group life and for suggesting some more particular areas of inquiry to which contemporary scholars may attend.

Keywords:
Lucian; Beauty; Character; Art; Reality; Definition; Language; Resistance; Symbolic interaction
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Deborah Ben-Shir
     The Open University of Israel, Israel

Born to Write: Discovery and Construction of Self in the Identity Stories of Poets and Writers

The explorative study hereby presented is based on in-depth interviews with 16 renowned Israeli writers of prose and poetry. The aim of the study is to examine the identity-stories of these masters of the written word. By the term "identity-story", we relate to the self-reflective or "ars-poetic" sides of the life stories our interviewees presented, the hows, whens and whys which had brought them to realize their identities as their cultures' authorized authors or poets. Thematic analysis of these stories, conducted in the spirit of the Schutzian Phenomenological-Interpretive approach, reveals an interesting interplay of two seemingly contradictory core meta-themes - identity-creation and identity-discovery. The present paper is focused on the identity-discovery meta-theme. Unlike the identity- creation meta-theme, which illustrates active, deliberate and conscious processes of identity construction within the social world, the identity-discovery meta-theme is based on narratives that detect the belief in the feasibility of a transcendental revelation of a given identity, whose roots lies beyond the ties of time and place.

Keywords:
Self-identity; Life stories; Phenomenological - interpretative approach; Writers; Poets; "I" & "Me"
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Katarina Jacobsson
     Lund University, Sweden

”We Can’t Just Do It Any Which Way” – Objectivity Work among Swedish Prosecutors

Objectivity is a principle widely acknowledged and honoured in contemporary society. Rather than treating objectivity as an a priori defined category to be tested empirically, I refer to the construction of objectivity as it is accomplished in practice as “objectivity work” and consider how Swedish prosecutors in interviews make and communicatively realize (i.e. “make real”) its claims. In analyzing two facets of objectivity work – maintaining objectivity and responses to objectivity violations – seven mechanisms are identified: appeals to (1) regulation, (2) duty, and (3) professionalism; responses to violations by (4) incantations of objectivity, (5) corrections, (6) proclamation by contrast, and (7) appeals to human fallibility. Directions for future research emphasize cross-cultural and cross-occupational comparisons, not only within the judiciary as objectivity is of a general concern in any area where disinterested truths are claimed. The concept of objectivity work allows one to study how various actors bring principle into everyday life.

Keywords:
Objectivity work; Prosecutors; Accounts; Ethnomethodology; Constructionism; Sweden
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Jack Fong
    California State Polytechnic University, USA

American Social “Reminders” of Citizenship after September 11, 2001: Nativisms and the Retractability of American Identity

My discussion considers how crisis dramatically changes social relationships and interaction patterns within a multicultural context. Specifically, I note the inherent social asymmetry of multicultural configurations, thus rendering it vulnerable for the dominant ethnic/racial group, the ethnocracy, to exact symbolically and materialistically punitive measures against minorities during periods of national crisis. I situate my discussion of dramatically changed social interactions in the post-September 11, 2001 period, when the attacks on the World Trade Center towers triggered nativism against Arab Americans, or any group phenotypically similar to the construction of “Arab.” I note how this nativism is not new but is a historical and consistent articulation of the ethnocratic stratum that retracts the American identity and notions of citizenship away from minorities during times of national crisis. The discussion concludes with how American multiculturalism is still full of unresolved ethnic and racial symbolisms that hark back to nineteenth century attempts by the White power structure to idealize, culturally and phenotypically, the constitution of an “ideal” American.

Keywords:
Racism; Nativism; Multiculturalism; Ethnocracy; Ethnicity; Identity; Citizenship
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Giampietro Gobo
     University of Milan, Italy

Crafting Blindness: Its Organizational Construction in a First Grade School

This article is based on a case study conducted in an Italian primary school where the interactions between a sightless girl (named Jasmine, aged 8) and her classmates were extensively observed. The initial aim was to understand and describe the problems encountered by the sightless pupil, who acted in a social, organizational and physical environment which was not designed for handicapped people. However, other theoretical issues emerged during the research. The main finding was that sightlessness seems socially and organizationally constructed before it becomes a biological/physical handicap. The organizational processes through which the blindness is slowly and routinely constructed were extensively described.

Keywords:
Blindness; Social construction; Disability studies; Organization; Grounded theory; Ethnomethodology; Ethnography; Ergonomics
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Lori L. McNeil
    Long Island University, CW Post Campus, USA

Applying Institutional Ethnography to Childcare

This research applies institutional ethnography to childcare by employing participant observation, interviews and text examination at two childcare research sites. The initial focus of this work describes the daily happenings in childcare utilizing a grounded theory approach and makes connections between what happens in childcare and the structures and institutions that dictate those experiences. The construction of work was found to be a major contributor to childcare experiences. I conclude with an examination of U.S. childcare policy and suggestions for improving these policies and offerings.

Keywords:
Institutional Ethnography; Childcare; Work and Family; Social Policy
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Caroline Pearce
     University of Manchester, UK

World Interrupted: An Autoethnographic Exploration into the Rupture of Self and Family Narratives Following the Onset of Chronic Illness and the Death of a Mother

Informed by the developments in autoethnography, narrative analysis and biographical sociology this paper seeks to affirm that understanding our narrative enables self-understanding and more importantly enables the understanding of others. Using an autoethnographic approach this paper explores the rupture in self and family identity following two traumatic events: the onset of a chronic illness (Multiple Sclerosis) and the death of a mother. It is the story of the life of my mother, who suffered with MS for 9 years and the story of my sister and myself, who cared for her throughout our childhood up to her death in 2000. The rupture in identity that we suffered interrupted the world in which we lived and exposed the contents of our individual and collective world(s). The themes that emerged from the narratives in this study suggest rupture is experienced as a movement of transgression that leads to movements of regression and progression.

Keywords:
Autoethnography; Rupture; Narrative; Identity; Story; Transgression; Regression; Progression
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Sang-hui Nam
     German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Germany

The Construction of Self-Identity in the Chronically Mentally Ill: A Focus on Autobiographic Narratives of Mentally Ill Patients in South Korea

A systematic policy for treatment and management of chronic psychiatric patients in South Korea was begun with the passage of the Mental Health Act in 1995. The mentally ill patients who were previously separated from the society now have opportunities to live in local communities under medication with the help of rehabilitation facilities. This study aims to understand how mentally ill patients deal with their new medical environment. An autobiographic narrative analysis is methodically applied in order to link the social and the individual levels. Autobiographic narratives of illness show how the patient’s self-identity is formed and further developed according to the chronic conditions of his illness and the continual learning from experiences. In regard to the construction of self-identity, two aspects should be taken into consideration: First, medication is absolutely necessary before patients can leave the hospital and participate in rehabilitation programs. Secondly, social integration is usually evaluated by the return of the patient into a normal biographical stage. It turns out that medication deprives the patients of control over their emotions, their bodies. Furthermore, their social environments – including family, friends and the labor market – work against them. Under these circumstances, mentally ill patients are liable to adhere to their own interpretation of mental illness, and what they experience is far different from the expectations of experts in the field. The new mental health environment also contributes to the formation of patient communities. As a result, chronic psychiatric patients are able to build their own subculture and to see themselves through their own eyes. Further studies are needed to explore whether and to what extent the ongoing improvement of social conditions for mentally ill patients has an impact on autobiographic narratives and self-identity construction.

Keywords:
Psychiatry; Chronic mental illness; Autobiographic narratives; Biographical methods
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Krzysztof Tomasz Konecki
     Lodz University, Poland

Grounded Theory and Serendipity. Natural History of a Research

The paper deals with the issue of “serendipity” (which constitutes the context of discovery) in field research and the analysis of data by using the grounded theory methodology. The thesis of the paper is: the methodology of grounded theory is naturally associated with serendipity. We describe two aspects of serendipity in grounded theory: 1. substantive, and 2. theoretical. We present in the paper serendipity phenomenon by using the case of research on the “social world of pet owners”. We show how the research is developed by a sequence of decisions being made by researchers. The process of emergence of the main analytical category, subcategories and the whole theoretical construction during the long time of the field research and theoretical group analysis is presented, as well as the procedure of coming to unanticipated theoretical conclusions. It was all possible because of the interactional character of serendipity happening during the research in grounded theory style of investigation.

Keywords:
Grounded theory; Serendipity; Qualitative sociology; Field research; Natural history of research; Sociology of interaction; Social world; Human-animals – non-human animals interactions; Anthropomorphization of animals
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Peter Nugus
     University of New South Wales, Australia

The interactionist Self and Grounded Research: Reflexivity in a Study of Emergency Department Clinicians

This paper shows how the theory of symbolic interactionism shaped a grounded investigation of the organizational labor of Australian Emergency Department (ED) clinicians. Further, it shows how symbolic interactionism supports reflexive criteria for validating grounded research. Using ethnographic methods across two metropolitan EDs, interactionism’s emphasis on roles applied equally to the relationship between researcher and participants as to the relationships among participants. Specifically, the researcher generated data by positioning interactionism as the mediator of the emergent relationship between researcher and participants. The results of this positioning were: a traceable path from understanding to interpretation and the search for consequentiality rather than truth. Interactionism facilitated the co-production by the researcher and participants of limits on the generalizability of the data. The paper is an argument for symbolic interactionism as a means not merely to generate sociological findings, but to conceptualize the impact of the researcher on the grounded research process.

Keywords:
Symbolic interactionism; Reflexivity; Self; Emergency Department; Grounded theory
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Lucija Mulej
     Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Slovenia

Construction of Scientific Facts – Why is Relativism Essential in Bypassing Incommensurable Gaps in Humanities. Case of Personal Involvement – Biased Scientific Facts

This paper addresses the theory of knowledge in relativistic terms of Paul Feyerabend, stressing the importance of personal involvement in the research and theorizing. Since the topic is a constant and widely accepted premise the author is insisting that it has been actually ignored in the sociology and philosophy of science. It is apparent in discursive form, neglected in actual consequences for science in general. Defending the thesis of relativism had remained unacknowledged by the general scientific community. Biographies of mavericks and their struggle and exclusion from scientific community etc. had been constant in the history of science. Is science nowadays able to accept criticism and implement arguments of knowledge beyond the institutionalized standards? Throughout this article we argue that personal involvement creates biased scientific facts; acknowledging and applying tacit knowledge we move beyond personal involvement and create appropriate interpretations of facts and phenomena under investigation, where we reconsider the construction of facts and personal beliefs, knowing that our fields of expertise are incommensurable.

Keywords:
Comparative methods; Interdisciplinary research; Paradigm (gestalt) shift; Relativism; Incommensurability; Psychoanalysis; Interpretative gaps; Epistemology; Logical inconsistency; Logic
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