Babel at 35,000 Feet: Banality and Ineffability in Qualitative Research


  • Sandro R. Barros Michigan State University



non-representational theory, qualitative research, transcultural communication, language, aesthetics


In this article, I explore the banalities of qualitative work flirting with some of the premises of non-representation theories' (NRT) thinking style. More specifically, I interrogate the usefulness of thinking with the mundane to explore the kinds of opportunities that could be afforded to language and transcultural communication if we repositioned qualitative work as a more-than-human affair. Drawing from experiences while conducting fieldwork onboard transatlantic flights, I discuss the implications of accounting for banalities and their embodiment within a flat ontology perspective. I conclude with a few remarks on criticality and qualitative research striving to present—as opposed to represent—elements in the fieldwork otherwise discarded as irrelevant, but that might be particularly revealing of what shapes a researcher's logic and what the researcher brings to bear as social phenomena, particularly in language and (as) communication.


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Author Biography

Sandro R. Barros, Michigan State University

Sandro R. BARROS is an assistant professor in the Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education program at Michigan State University. He studies and teaches about intercultural communication, multilingualism, and the politics of language learning, with an emphasis on languages othered by English. He has published articles, chapters, and personal stories situated in the intersection of the humanities and social-sciences fields. He is the author of "Competing Truths in Latin America: Narrating Otherness and Marginality (Floricanto Press, 2010) and "Reinaldo Arenas: Pedagogy and Dissidence" (University of Florida Press, forthcoming).




How to Cite

Barros, S. R. (2020). Babel at 35,000 Feet: Banality and Ineffability in Qualitative Research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 21(2).