From Personal to General: Discursivity and Representativity in Interviews


  • Jens Schneider



interview, methods, discourse, communication, representativity


In some disciplines of qualitative social research, interviews are not very popular because they are seen as artificial, time consuming and not quite representative. The article explores the possibilities to transform these disadvantages into "virtues" with the help of a consistent discursive approach: How can interview texts be analyzed with regard to overarching discourse contexts, and thus be used for generalizations going beyond the single interview? A central role is played by the concepts of "prototype" and "position" which help to guarantee a specific representativity of the data material. One necessary preliminary step is to look at the communicative aspects in interviews: What is the influence the interview situation exerts on the discursive behavior of the interviewees? What is the relation between the situational and communicative factors to those overarching discursive contexts? The questions are addressed theoretically and methodologically, but at the same time illustrated in their practical use by examples from interviews on the topic of "German identity." These interviews were guided with leading politicians, journalists and cultural performers in the context of a 20-month ethnographic field research in Berlin in 1995/96. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0203233


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Author Biography

Jens Schneider

Jens SCHNEIDER, Dr. phil., Jahrgang '62, ist Ethnologe, Musikwissenschaftler und Linguist. Er hat in Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Amsterdam und Tübingen studiert und beschäftigt sich u.a. mit Konstruktionen nationaler und ethnischer Identität sowie Migration und Rassismus in unterschiedlichen nationalstaatlichen Gesellschaften. Er hat Feldforschungen in Chile und Deutschland durchgeführt und arbeitet zur Zeit als Postdoktorand am Nationalmuseum in Rio de Janeiro an einem Forschungsprojekt zur brasilianischen Nationalidentität.



How to Cite

Schneider, J. (2002). From Personal to General: Discursivity and Representativity in Interviews. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 3(3).