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Danish anthology on conflict in qualitative studies

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In a new anthology, researchers from SFI and AU discuss the conflicts, forms of power and opposition that qualitative research reflects, produces or makes visible in the encounter between researchers and the researched in various fields.

In recent years, Denmark has seen an increased interest in understanding and developing qualitative research with new concepts and perspectives, such as ‘active’, ‘interactionist’, ‘epistemic’ and ‘reflexive’ qualitative research methods.

Along with these concepts and perspectives, we now also see internationally a dawning focus on conflict in qualitative studies. The attention here is toward understanding conflict as another important aspect of the epistemological, methodological and analytical foundation and potential of qualitative research methods. Conflict and resistance, for instance in the interview situation or during fieldwork, are not primarily considered as a ‘technical’ challenge to the researcher, but more fundamentally as a condition for the production of social scientific knowledge.

A new Danish anthology - edited by Frederik Thuesen, senior researcher at SFI, Professor Lene Tanggaard from Aalborg University and myself - taps into this dawning paradigm, which discusses the conflicts, forms of power and opposition that qualitative research reflects, produces or makes visible in the encounter between researchers and the researched in various fields. Thus, the anthology is a Danish contribution to a reflexive process that constructively seeks to make the relationship between power, epistemology and methodology in qualitative research more transparent and more methodologically and analytically insightful and manageable.

The approach of the book is to make power relations within the research process part of the knowledge that social research generates, for instance as these relations play out between researchers and the researched, but also as part of broader social structures. Thus, our assumption is that the conflicts or the resistance we meet as researchers during studies always reflect the structural, political, discursive, affective and other conditions within which people live and act.

Consequently, conflict and resistance does not represent just ‘a stone in the shoe’ or some practical obstacles for the researcher. On the contrary, a lot of insight and valuable information is to be found by focusing directly on the conflicts, the opposition, and the power relations that play out not only in, but also with the field in which the study is undertaken. This may not always be a pleasant experience; sometimes even unpleasant. Therefore, we encourage researchers to consciously practice what Wanda Pillow calls “uncomfortable reflexivity […] that seeks to know at the same time as situating this knowledge as fragile” (1991:129).

The book is organized into four parts addressing the following themes: I) Power and conflict as research potentials; II) Managing conflicts during interviews and fieldwork; III) Conflict sensitive analyses; and IV) Conflict as an ethical challenge.

Apart from the editors, contributors to the book are, Lene Tanggard (professor at Aalborg University), Frederik Thuesen (senior researcher at The Danish National Centre for Social Research) and Kathrine Vitus (senior researcher at The Danish National Centre for Social Research), also Dorthe Staunæs (professor at Aarhus University), Jette Kofoed (associate professor at Aarhus University), Jacob Demant (associate professor at Copenhagen University); Svend Brinkmann (professor at Aalborg University); Lena Lippke (assistant professor at Aalborg University) and the late Steinar Kvale (professor at Aalborg University).

Apart from university students, this book is also intended for students in medium-cycle education programmes such as educators, social workers, police, health care workers and journalists, who not only study but also work with people and potentially meet resistance and conflict in these professional dialogues and interactions.

Tangaard, Lene; Thuesen, Frederik & Vitus, Kathrine (eds.) (2014) . Konflikt i kvalitative studier. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag.

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