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QUAL Speaker Series | Andre Stephens: Representing Social Knowledge: The Interviewee as a Site of Observation
QUAL Speaker Series | Andre Stephens: Representing Social Knowledge: The Interviewee as a Site of Observation
WhenWednesday, May 9, 2018, 12:30 – 1:20 p.m.
Campus locationThomson Hall (THO)
Campus roomTHO 317
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Description

Representing Social Knowledge: The Interviewee as a Site of Observation

Influenced by recent calls by scholars to make qualitative methods more rigorous, interviewers often evaluate their sampling strategy in terms of ‘large-N thinking’. In this talk, I argue that such thinking can lead interviewers to mistakenly treat the interviewee as the unit of observation. Consequently, interviewers tend to give undue focus to maximizing the number of interviews they do rather than optimizing the gathering quality data. Finally, I reason that confirmatory bias promotes epistemic confusion about the research ‘population’ from which interviewers draw their samples and masks the central role of theory in making causal inference. In making these claims, I draw primarily on my recent experience doing six months of fieldwork in Jamaica on role of capitalist elites and international financial institutions in shaping national economic policy. I show that the categories and meanings that interviewers are interested in are rarely contained in interviewees as independent units. Instead, they are co-constructed as elements in a universe of collective knowledge. I conclude that interviewees should be viewed as inter-subjective sites through which observations of the social world can be excavated rather than as units of observation.

Andre Stephens is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology and Chester Fritz International Research Fellow. His dissertation examines the role of private capital and international institutions in crafting post-recession economic development policies. His research interests draw from multiple sub-disciplines, including: democracy & development; economy & public finance; state-business-global relations; and law & society studies.

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