Dr. Sommers goes to Vegas!

Image: Rory Sommers

In February of 2018, Prof. Rory Sommers presented at the 30th annual Ethnographic and Qualitative Research Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Titled “Probing, Provoking and “Saving Face”: Navigating the Power-Resistance Dynamic of Active Interviewing,” his presentation explored the challenges that arise when attempts are made to contrast rapport-building strategies with combative forms of engagement in qualitative interviews.  Drawing on interviews with city bureaucrats which sought to explore the link between municipal law enforcement, broken windows policing strategies and urban renewal, Rory discussed the difficulties that can emerge when attempts are made to shift to an outsider position once insider knowledge of the topic under investigation has been established. Results highlighted how transitioning to a position of detachment can lead to direct challenges from respondents who at times resist more ill-informed or naive lines of questioning based on a previously established, shared understanding of the subject being discussed. Informed by the work of Erving Goffman, it was argued that the power-resistance dynamic of the active interview is inherently conflictual and requires researchers to engage in impression management and at times, “save face” as coproduced narratives are created and contested.