Elizabeth St.Pierre, University of Georgia

Post Qualitative Inquiry, the Refusal of Method, and the Risk of the New

The 21st century has seen a proliferation of refusals of pre-existing social science research methods and methodologies that prescribe what must be done before one begins to inquire. The reliance on scientific method has been called methodolatry—the worship of method—and scientism—the belief that only science can produce true knowledge. But there are no methods in post qualitative inquiry, which relies on postmodernism’s ontology of immanence—what is not yet, does not yet exist, what is to come that must be created, the new. Post qualitative inquiry, then, is immanent, cannot be described in advance, is experimental, and cannot be repeated. It may well be unrecognizable as what everyone knows is social science research, and that is its appeal, the risk of the new and different.

Aitor Gomez, Universitat Rovira i Virgili

Science with and for society through qualitative inquiry

Federico García Lorca, preceding the public reading of Gypsy Ballads in 1928 said ‘men, through poetry, quickly approach the edge where the philosopher and the mathematician silently give their backs’. Lorca entered in dialogue with his readers highlighting how his verses gave sense to their lives. In a similar way, Gabriel Celaya in his poem ‘Poetry is a gun charged of future’ emphasized the need to work with the vulnerable people “until getting dirty”, against cultural elitism: ‘Poetry for the poor one, needed poetry as the daily bread (…) I curse the poetry conceived as a cultural luxury by the neutrals ones who, washing their hands, doesn’t want to know and escape’.

We can establish a parallelism between Lorca and Celaya’s words and the current debate about qualitative inquiry for the assessment of social impact in social science research. Both poets worked for the people, highlighting the popular culture and critiquing elitists positions.

Social science research has been attacked by neoliberal thinkers who allege that such research lacks economic objectives. Objectivist and positivist approaches derived from neo­liberal and elitist positions, which have largely been based upon research with economic goals, frequently attack qualitative methodologies for assessing social science research.

If, as social science researchers, we would like to focus our investigation on important top­ics contributing to the improvement of society, especially for the most vulnerable groups, we need to develop qualitative tools to assess to what extent social science research is hav­ing direct impact on improving those groups’ living conditions.

However, it has already been proven by social research that qualitative methodologies give us rich data that reveal profound truths about social phenomena. As such knowledge has been constructed in close and egalitarian dialogue with the citizenry. Many social science researchers are developing qualitative methodologies through which we can directly work with citizens, constructing together deeper knowledge and, in so doing, transforming the world for the better.

These qualitative methodologies declare our social responsibility as social researchers in addressing relevant problems, especially those affecting the most vulnerable people. Citizens perceived social science researchers as being far from their real problems, more involved in their publications and their own interests than in improving the social reality of many lives around the world. We, social science researchers committed to research for a better world, should engage in changing such picture, creating and including qualita­tive inquiries to reach social impact. It is not so much as researchers’ choices as it is responding to a worldwide citizens’ claim, a claim for research that contributes to over­coming relevant social problems as well as research that is planned not only for society but with society.

This keynote illustrates why and how we can work with and for society, because, as Paulo Freire wrote, “in being in favor of something or someone, I am necessarily against some­one’. Calling for a politics of hope, following Freire’s pedagogy of hope and taking part “until getting dirty”, we are sharing a commitment to change the world from our work as social inquiry researchers.