The Interpretive Turn: History, Memory, and Storage in Qualitative Research

  • Véronique Mottier Université de Lausanne
Keywords: interpretive turn, qualitative data, history, memory, archiving, hermeneutics, dialogue, empowerment


This article reviews the field of qualitative inquiry, identifying three conceptual breaks: the "orthodox consensus" of positivism which conceives the social world as a collection of external facts and attempts to eliminate bias and subjectivity; post-positivist philosophy of science, which concedes that objective observation of pure data is impossible but nevertheless tries to establish criteria of "good" research practice; and the interpretive turn, which rehabilitates subjectivity and views data collection as a mutual construction of meaning where the researcher is engaged in "double hermeneutics" (GIDDENS). The interpretive turn has implications for history, memory, and storage of data. However, while recognizing the interactionist and contextual nature of data collection, the article points out that it is counterproductive to overemphasize its implications, as some postmodern strands of interpretive research do. Drawing on the hermeneutic notions of objectivation and the hermeneutic circle, it is argued that interpretive research data consist of objectivations, and therefore lend themselves to storage and future revision, newly emerging questions, and (re-)interpretation. Furthermore, data storage allows for data access by non-specialists, including the subjects of the research. Archiving consequently potentially contributes to empowerment, feedback and dialogue. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0502330


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Author Biography

Véronique Mottier, Université de Lausanne
Véronique MOTTIER. Present position: Professeure boursiere (Swiss National Science Foundation Research Professor), IEPI, University of Lausanne & Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge. Major research areas: interpretative methodologies; social theory; gender and sexuality; eugenics.
How to Cite
Mottier, V. (2005). The Interpretive Turn: History, Memory, and Storage in Qualitative Research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(2).
Part 1: The Why and How of Qualitative Methods