Sixteenth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry

20-23 May 2020

Illini Union
1401 W Green St, Urbana, IL 61801



Countering Repression: Justice and Equity Becoming(s)with Critical Qualitative Inquiry

Gaile S. Cannella, Independent Scholar

As has become clear, even as movements like Me Too and Black Lives Matter gain attention and some prominence, in contemporary anti-democratic and increasingly fascist conditions (around the globe), women, people of color, youth, the poor, immigrants, the elderly, and many others face continued silencing, hatred, and violence. Further, all living creatures, as well as the earth, are placed in great peril as illustrated by conditions like forced climate migration, expanded economic inequity, extinction, and even geno- cide. Although critical scholars have created projects grounded in the belief that research can counter injustice, inequity, and repression, transformations that increase justice (social or otherwise) have not always been the result. Therefore, in this current context, in these troubled times, and in order to determine possibilities for direct action, this presenta- tion uses Haraway’s (2016) notion of becomingwith to further facilitate the emergence of qualitative research (re)conceptualizations and related public actions that focus on power, justice, and equity. Acknowledging that critical perspectives and histories originate from a range of locations (e.g. postcolonial, indigenous, feminist, posthuman), the multiplicities of justice oriented histories can becomewith our presents and futures to yield previously unthought entangled bodies, agents, kinships, assemblages, events, and actions that would move toward a more just world. Embodying namings and actions/agency simultaneously, becoming(s)with are – unforeseen, remarkable alliances and collaborations – nurturing relations that loop around and through one another – how partners are rendered capable of, and get on together – new kinships that foster recuperation – and, how unexpected combinations for research/inquiry construct previously unthought possibilities for justice.

Empathy as a Tactic in Repressive Times

Ronald J. Pelias. Emeritus Professor, Southern Illinois University

Calling upon our empathic capacities has been a fundamental research strategy for those of us engaged in qualitative inquiry. For a few quick examples, I might mention that ethnography’s demand for participant observation is a push toward walking in another’s shoes as a means for understanding and feeling with those living in a given community. Effec- tive interviewing, key to so many qualitative orientations, requires taking into account the perspectives of others and empathic listening. At the center of performance methods is the “magic if,” the questioning of how one might feel by projecting oneself into another’s “given circumstances” (Stanislavski, 1936). Even autoethnography as it speaks from a located self becomes more persuasive and more ethically secure when empathy guides renderings of others. In these repressive times, however, empathy may seem at odds with personal desires given our ongoing levels of frustration and anger, may appear politically naïve, and may lack efficacy. In this essay, I put on display my continued belief in empa- thy’s constructive power and my suspicion that empathy as practiced in our prevailing neoliberal climate is inadequate to the task of social change. My aim, then, is to outline some empathic tactics in keeping with a qualitative inquiry ethical sensibility and responsive to a regiment of repression.


In these repressive times, dissident voices are silenced. Repressive discourse ridicules the other, testing the limits of civility and freedom of speech. We seek to understand this world, but we demand a performance politics that leads to radical change. It started before the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States on November 9, 2016. You could go back 15 years to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 when the US, under the Bush administration, invaded Iraq under great pretense (there were no weapons of mass destruction) and put in place the permanent War on Terror. Loneliness, anxiety, uncertainty, and a culture of fear followed. Every American was turned into a potential terrorist. A new generation, fearful, resentful and angry, was created. Its members were ready to gravitate to a cult of personality, a celebrity, the woman or man who promised a new day, an escape from fear, from terror. Welcome to Donald Trump’s America. We have fallen prey to a politics of extremism, misogyny and ultra-nationalism.

We are participants in, and witnesses to the performances of a politician-entertainer- reality TV President who uses social media (Twitter) to offer easy solutions to America’s problems. He has elevated incivility to a performance, a pedagogy of self-righteous indig- nation which fuels resentment and anger, hatred and bigotry. A diseased, embodied pedagogy of fear and war, based on fake-news is fitted to a post-9/11 ISIS world. Manufac- tured ignorance reinforces bullying and violence. Hate crimes are on the rise. We are living under a managed democracy which everyday looks more and more like fascism. Everyone today is looking for a new hero, a new savoir. People are losing their homes, their jobs, their children, their marriages and families are collapsing. And the fake president promises to be the master of the “art of the deal.” I’ll “make America great again,” he says.

Meanwhile, around the world, the social fabric unravels. Intolerance, misogyny, racism, ugliness, anger and authoritarianism gain ground. Many feel a loss of control over what is important, including sanity itself. They no longer trust their political leaders. Wages are falling. Health care costs are rising. Demagogues, appealing to popular desires and preju- dices paint apocalyptic scenes. Hate groups target women and persons of color. Leaders embrace a survival of the fittest ideology, reject mainstream science, and contend that human-caused climate change is a hoax. This is the world qualitative inquiry is called to change, and to resist.

Norman K. Denzin, Director