Qualitative Research: Beyond the Fractured Future

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    William Feighery

    The theme of this conference is drawn from the notion of a historical ‘moment’ in qualitative research – the ‘fractured future’[i] (2010 –). In this moment there is considerable uncertainty, turmoil and methodological and representational contestation among interpretative practitioners and others[ii]. This historical moment in qualitative inquiry (QI) can be regarded as representing a nexus at which the performance of “critical conversations about democracy, race, gender, class, nation-states, globalization, freedom, and community”[iii] are not only possible, but potentially represent a decisive response to the neoliberal global environment which increasingly confronts interpretative practitioners. The ‘paradigm wars’, may be less apparent than in the closing decades of the twentieth century, but the struggle for ‘territory’ (however defined) continues.

    Some of the responses to this context have reverted to common dichotomies (for example radical democracy versus neo-liberalism) in advancing their positions. There are however more productive points of engagement embracing emergent ways of knowing which seek to draw the fragments of contested knowledge(s) into new configurations and new forms of understanding. The overlapping historical moments of qualitative inquiry (including the ‘fractured future’) have witnessed/are witnessing the development of numerous methods and approaches spanning the humanities and social sciences. New spaces of qualitative research have been produced which welcome messy and multi-voiced texts, cultural criticism, as well as experimental, indigenous, iterative and reflexive works.

    These are just some of the productive responses which have been constructed in the ongoing interpretative practice of qualitative research. Yet for many qualitative researchers and others, numerous critical questions remain unanswered, for example: what political commitments have boon, or should be, made by qualitative inquirers; what counts as social justice; who do we consider to be the knowledge bearers of indigenous social science and who and what is excluded from the construction of communal knowledge; what are the ethical parameters of qualitative inquiry in the context of new forms of communication and mediation; what is the role of qualitative research/ers in the ‘fire fight’ for or with resources; and what role for qualitative inquiry outside of the dis-integrating academy.

    As qualitative inquiry’s analytic pendulum sustains its constant motion[iv], this conference provides an opportunity to review, debate and reflect on these and other questions in a critical yet supportive environment. It is hoped that the diversity of contributions to the conference will, potentially, advance our understandings of the changing context within which qualitative inquiry may be practiced, as well as the implications of such practice ‘beyond the fractured future’.

    [i] Lincoln, Y. S. & Denzin, N. K. (2005). The eighth and ninth moments—qualitative research in/and the fractured future. In N. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research. (3 rd ed. pp.1115-1126). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
    [ii] Beck, J. L., Belliveau, G., Lea, G. W., & Wager, A. (2011). Delineating a spectrum of research-based theatre. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(8), 687–700. doi: 10.1177/1077800411415498
    [iii] Denzin, Y.S. & Lincoln, N.K. (2005). Introduction: The discipline and practice of qualitative research. In Y.S. Denzin & N.K. Lincoln (Eds.). The Sage handbook of qualitative research, third edition, (pp. 1-32). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
    [iv] Holstein, J. A. and Gubrium, J. F. (2005) Interpretative Practice and Social Action. In Y.S. Denzin & N.K. Lincoln (Eds.). The Sage handbook of qualitative research, third edition, (pp. 483). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

    We welcome qualitative researchers from all fields of social research (and beyond) to contribute to critical debates about future practices of qualitative inquiry (QI). The following tracks help frame the structure of the conference and assist attendees when selecting the presentations they wish to attend. Although there are many points of interpenetration relating to these designations, when submitting proposals/abstracts please indicate which track best fits your proposed presentation.
    Further information at http://www.metlab.ch/conference/

    Dr Ann Lawless

    I went to the Conference website with great interest – looks provocative and fascinating.  Best wishes with the conference!  Will you make any of the proceedings or publications available here?

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