Investigating Collective and Individual Dynamics—Towards an Interpretative Social ResearchSensitive to History and Process


  • Gabriele Rosenthal Georg-August-Universität Göttingen



combination of methods, case reconstruction, biographical research, process sociology, figurational sociology, intercultural studies, migration research, interpretative sociology


In my contribution I focus on the advantages of  rigorous interpretative or reconstructive social research in comparison to other qualitative methods. I attempt to show how we might be able to benefit from these advantages more consistently and extensively than we have so far. The following questions shall be asked: What are we able to achieve by intensive analysis of a small number of cases? What are the advantages of "theoretical generalizations" based on specific cases in comparison to qualitative procedures which aim for a numerical or quantitative generalization? To what extend are we able to arrive at more apt and more comprehensive conclusions about social (both collective and individual) reality; for example, a certain grouping, a particular organization, collective conflict, city, milieu or social network? In answering these questions, I make a plea for interpretative research becoming more historical and process-sociological. In my opinion, the chances for an actual "grounded theory" on the basis of empirical work lie in the more thorough reconstruction of processes of changes, including long-term processes, for particular "cases" and their interrelations with other "cases."



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Author Biography

Gabriele Rosenthal, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Gabriele Rosenthal is professor for qualitative methods at the Center of Methods in Social Sciences at the Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Germany. She is currently the president of the Research Committee: “Biography and Society” (RC 38) within the International Sociological Association (ISA). Previous positions included a professorship for general sociology at the University of Cologne and a professorship for social therapy at the University of Kassel. Since 1989, she has taught qualitative methods and biographical research as a guest lecturer at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel. Her major research focus is on the intergenerational impact of the collective and familial history on biographical structures and actional patterns of individuals and family systems. Her current research deals with migration, ethnicity, ethnic conflicts and trauma.
Publications (FQS)



How to Cite

Rosenthal, G. (2016). Investigating Collective and Individual Dynamics—Towards an Interpretative Social ResearchSensitive to History and Process. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 17(2).



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