FQS Debate "We Are Talking About Ourselves! Exploring How Social Scientists Work"

Social scientists have made it their business to study the (social) lives of people and (sub-) cultures. In so doing, they do not merely investigate surface features of social representation, but instead attempt to identify deeper motivations and purposes behind those representations. To many social scientists, this uncovering of underlying patterns appears to be the pinnacle of their practice. Does this mean that society as a whole has become transparent? No! Social scientists' own practices tend to have remained in the dark. In the past, they have investigated everyone and everything, whilst the inner workings of their own practices have remained invisible. Most social scientists have stayed true to Francis BACON's dictum: "We keep silent about ourselves!" Following the previous debate on Ethnography of the Career Politics, the purpose of this debate is to reverse BACON's dictum: Of ourselves we speak!

The purpose of this debate is to examine the inner workings of social scientific practices, which are inextricably intertwined with their scientific objects (people and cultures) in the processes of knowledge production. With the emergence of the field of social studies of social sciences arising from a reflexive turn in sociology, qualitative social research as a field has begun to deliberately take a step back to bring into focus its own scientific culture, see also FQS 3(3) and FQS 4(2). This has established a line of research committed to an empirically supported reflexivity toward qualitative research activities. Some of the dynamics inherent in the social sciences have thus already been the subject of investigation, while many more remain unexplored.

In this FQS debate, we invite authors to empirically explore research activities undertaken in the social sciences, including their own. Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • How can biography and work be reconciled, i.e., how can everyday life, personal life, and scientific ambition be aligned with the demands of academia?
  • How can power situations be dealt with? What is the role of conflicts in knowledge production?
  • How are the defused or channeled conflicts in social science practice? How are positions in (informal) social processes balanced?
  • What forms of communication exist in scientific (work) environments? Are the coffee kitchen or the pub still relevant as places of encounters for social scientists?
  • How do scientists present themselves in their work? To what extent does appearance inform reputation? Can performance be critical to career opportunities?
  • What strategies are available to advance as a scientist, to attract attention, or to protect researchers? How do scientists act to fit in or mark their position? How can personal or research interests be shaped or distorted?
  • How do new modes of living—e.g., commuting or globalized careers—shape intellectual work? How is intellectual exchange organized and how does it potentially suffer when scholars travel frequently?
  • How have digitization and the ubiquity of video conferencing transformed scholarly work at home and in the office? Are (video) conferences replacing on-site reading circles and colloquia?
  • To what extent does an increasing mobility fuel professional conflicts due to non-attendance? What does it mean for the production of knowledge to face other scholars in person?

As editors of this debate we are anticipating an open and lively-critical debate in which contributors make reference to each other's contributions. We are interested (in the broadest sense) in qualitative work that draws on research traditions from the social sciences, regardless of their specific disciplinary or methodological orientation. Explorations of inter- and transdisciplinary working contexts are welcome.

Please send your contribution in FQS format or a clarifying preliminary request to: deb_explore@qualitative-research.net

Debate Editors: Franz Breuer, Paul Eisewicht, Thomas Etzemüller, Jo Reichertz

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