"Because of You I Am an Invalid!"—Some Methodological Reflections About the Limitations of Collecting and Interpreting Verbal Data and the Attempt to Win New Insights by Applying the Epistemological Potential of Ethnopsychoanalytical Concepts

  • Silvia Heizmann Universität Fribourg
Keywords: ethnopsychoanalysis, subjectivity, epistemology, reflexivity, objective hermeneutics, working poor


This article is based on an in-depth interview which the author conducted as part of an ongoing study on working poor and their experiences with social welfare in Switzerland (NFP 45). At first, she considered this interview to be somewhat of a failure, because she thought the verbal information shared by the couple interviewed was rather lean. At the same time, two other aspects struck her as remarkable: on the one hand, she herself was subject to strong feelings, and on the other, she noticed subtle actions of both husband and wife. Increasingly, the author realized that it was crucial in this case to complement explicitly verbal expression with non-verbal interaction and transference. Applying the ethno-psychoanalytical concept of irritation, which allows for these two further levels of communication, the interview can then also be seen as a success. This method differs from the objective hermeneutics approach according to which interviews are interpreted by the other researchers within this project, an approach which neglects the experiential dimension—of the interviewer as well as of the person interviewed—altogether. This article therefore focuses on those epistemological insights which can precisely be gained from analyzing the subjective interaction of the interlocutors following the new paradigm which DEVEREUX introduced and which the Zurich School developed for the social sciences. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0302315


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Author Biography

Silvia Heizmann, Universität Fribourg
Silvia HEIZMANN, lic.phil. Ethnologin, Diplomassistentin am Departement für Sozialarbeit und Sozialpolitik der Universität Fribourg, Schweiz. Unterrichtet Kritisches Denken und Qualitative Forschungsmethoden. Themenschwerpunkte: Ethnopsychoanalyse, feministische Erkenntniskritik, Körper und Tanz.