Counter-talk as symbolic boundary drawing : Challenging legitimate cultural practices in individual and focus group interviews in the lower regions of social space
Heikkilä, Riie; Katainen, Anu (2021)
The Sociological Review
Julkaisun pysyvä osoite on
In qualitative interviews, challenges such as deviations from the topic, interruptions, silences or counter-questions are inevitable. It is debatable whether the researcher should try to alleviate them or consider them as important indicators of power relations. In this methodological article, we adopt the latter view and examine the episodes of counter-talk that emerge in qualitative interviews on cultural practices among underprivileged popular classes by drawing on 49 individual and focus group interviews conducted in the highly egalitarian context of Finland. Our main aim is to demonstrate how counter-talk emerging in interview situations could be fruitfully analysed as moral boundary drawing. We identify three types of counter-talk: resisting the situation, resisting the topic, and resisting the interviewer. While the first type unites many of the typical challenges inherent to qualitative interviewing in general (silences, deviations from the topic and so forth), the second one shows that explicit taste distinctions are an important feature of counter-talk, yet the interviewees mostly discuss them as something belonging to the personal sphere. Finally, the third type reveals how the strongest counter-talk and clearest moral boundary stemmed from the interviewees’ attitudes towards the interviewer herself. We argue that counter-talk in general should be given more importance as a key element of the qualitative interview. We demonstrate that all three types of counter-talk are crucial to properly understanding the power relations and moral boundaries present in qualitative interviews and that cultural practices are a particularly good topic to tease them out.
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