Subjectivity and Reflexivity in the Social Sciences: Epistemic Windows and Methodical Consequences

  • Franz Breuer Universität Münster
Keywords: subjectivity, reflexivity, theory of knowledge, methodology, qualitative research methods


We sketch four basic epistemological assumptions that imply a constructionist orientation to knowledge including (a) perspectivity, positionality; (b) horizonality, dynamic observer position; (c) the structuring of knowledge through instruments of knowledge production; and (d) interactivity and interventionist nature of research. Although social scientists often adopt a constructionist epistemology to frame their research object, the methodological consequences of such an epistemology for the production of social scientific knowledge are not normally drawn. Instead of dealing with the four assumptions as a productive epistemic window, many researchers exhibit a defensive tendency and continue the quest for objectivity in their own writing. We propose a different methodological position conceptualized in the dialectic of the always embodied, individual, and social researcher-in-interaction. Beginning with the concept of a decentered (self-) observation we develop the idea of the reflexive nature that relates the epistemic subject and object. We propose a way systematizing methodological considerations and procedures that follows the research process, beginning with the identification of a research topic to the final presentation of the results. The contributions to the two present FQS volumes on "Subjectivity and Reflexivity in Qualitative Research" provide answers and possible solutions to the questions and problems raised in this introduction. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0302258


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