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Living Resemblances Jennifer Mason University of Manchester Methodological Challenges for the 21 st Century ESRC Research Methods Programme Event 22-23.

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Presentation on theme: "Living Resemblances Jennifer Mason University of Manchester Methodological Challenges for the 21 st Century ESRC Research Methods Programme Event 22-23."— Presentation transcript:

1 Living Resemblances Jennifer Mason University of Manchester Methodological Challenges for the 21 st Century ESRC Research Methods Programme Event November 2007 Real Life Methods Part of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods

2 The Living Resemblances Project – The team: Sociology (Katherine Davies, Carol Smart, Jennifer Mason) Socio-Legal Studies (Carol Smart) Psychology, health and social understandings of genetics (Josephine Green) Psychoanalysis (Brendan Gough) Socio-Linguistics (Lynne Cameron) Visual Methodologies (Jon Prosser, Jennifer Mason, Katherine Davies, Carol Smart) Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

3 The Living Resemblances Project – Why Resemblances?: Significance of kinship and connection in contemporary social life Cultural evidence that resemblances matter and express something about how people are connected Family resemblances in existing studies of family and kinship – sometimes observed but not systematically addressed Tangible affinities, as well as sensory and ethereal (and genetic, but our questions are not driven by genetics) Methodological challenge and disciplinary stretching Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

4 Research Questions What role do family resemblances play in everyday family life, in the politics of kinship, in power relations, in individual and family identity and sense of self? How do people theorise about family resemblances in their own lives and outside? What does this tell us about kinship, connectedness, heritability (including but not solely genetic inheritance), and identity? Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

5 Methods: creative interviews Purpose: to explore how people live and experience resemblances (or lack of them) in everyday life with their own kin and others. Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

6 Methods: creative interviews What they involve: Ethnographic interviews. Asking grounded questions about appearance, ways of being, the sensory and ethereal elements of peoples kinship and relationality. Observing interactions and the doing of resemblances. Visual methods including photo elicitation, video, photography Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

7 Methods: Qualitative Experiments What they involve: Open ended questionnaire completed individually, including: –vignettes (some normative) probing themes that arent necessarily in peoples personal experience –opinion/attitude questions (including reactions to BSAS data about genes/upbringing) –some personal experience questions Group discussion of themes from questionnaire Individual visual resemblance spotting task, followed by group discussion when correct answers are revealed. Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

8 Methods: Qualitative Experiments Purpose: How resemblances are publicly - referenced, constructed, measured, negotiated, spoken about, theorised. Resemblance spotting and theorising – how willing are people to do it? how able? how do they do it? what assumptions do they make? what social rules and norms do they deploy (skills, humour, self deprecation)? Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

9 Methods: Expert Study Purpose: To examine how key experts theorise and explain resemblance issues, and what they say about the value, development and influence of expert knowledge Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

10 Methods: Expert Study What it involves: Interviews, questionnaire and focus group/experiment sessions (N = up to10 interviews, plus 2 experiments), review of key literature Interviews will focus on: The nature of the expertise they represent or have developed, and what it says/how it explains the significance of family resemblances Their experience of how the public relate to this expertise Their take on the politics of knowledge and expertise, counter claims etc Their own personal experience of resemblance issues, and how it meshes with expert knowledge and theory Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

11 Methods: Expert Study Proposed experts: Genetic counsellor Geneticist Evolutionary psychologist Family therapist/psychologist Facial recognition scientist/diagnostic imaging specialist Disability activist Media genealogist Adoption and fostering professional Criminologist (criminal profiling) Photographer (commissioned) Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

12 Sample data extracts: From creative interviews, and experiment: Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

13 Twins game Revealing of assumptions about what can be read from appearances about how people are connected Establishes the cultural assumption that you can or should be able to see twinship, or consanguinity, in visible appearance, but the trick or fun is that you cant (always, or in this case) Simultaneous presence of contradictory ideas is normal (resemblance does and doesnt tell you honestly or fully about connection, the visible both is/isnt highly evidential) The politics of competency, the interactive doing of resemblances. Who ought to be able to do it. Who is good at it and what it means to be good at it. Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

14 Twins game, photo sorting and measuring resemblances Also In the experiment In the expert study How do we (people, experts, researchers) know or decide a resemblance exists (or doesnt). How do we measure it (objectively, scientifically, artistically, intuitively)? Role of sensory/visceral/haptic knowledge in everyday life and expert knowledge. Do we see resemblance as evidence? (the concept of skill, the correct answers in the experiment) Of what? eg kinship, connections and affinities in emotion, spirit, character, health, across generations, beyond the present/without need of personal contact. Genetics, inevitability, fate, prophecy, ethereal or spiritual connection. Why? Power relations (controlling resemblances in personal life, building expert status), emotion, longing. Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

15 Janet (interview data) Janet: In fact its really strange because I went on holiday to Ireland a few years ago and erm, I was er, I was with a group of people and this lady came up, and its no word of a lie, this lady came up to me and she said I dont mean to be rude she said but you dont know somebody called Jim Spencer do you? and I went yeah, its me Dad. She said I thought it was she said ooh, you arent half the image of your Dad. And I thought, and yet, I mean to look at me, I dont think I am, you know, I mean Im not like you know white hair, big tummy, and Im thinking What? Do I look like me Dad? (laughter). But yeah she said shed just seen that, the link, that she must be a Spencer that one you know Katherine: Gosh so that was a physical thing then that she spotted? Janet: (Overlapping) Yeah. But a lot of people say that you must be a Spencer because were all quite, I mean…. were all fair, were all fair skinned, er weve all got big saucer blue eyes Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

16 Janet An evidential claim. Simultaneously is and isnt physical. –Something ethereal or beyond rational comprehension. –Beyond embodiment (link with the idea that the social is not only embodied, but (dis)embodied - Hockey and Draper on foetuses/unborn and dead. Konrad on presymptomatic persons in predictive genetic testing for Huntingdons Disease) But relational, not individual. Seeing the link. Beyond individuals. Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

17 Metaphor Analysis (interview data) – traits inside WITH PHYSICAL AND MENTAL TRAITS INSIDE coming out1228Jlike the rebellious side's coming out now outlet2757Jso I think he does find that outlet for his creativeness. Blocked431Ja lot of it's blocked. occupy414Jto just occupy that mind coming out2118K yeah and that's the fairness coming out. coming out2235Jthere's like the red hair coming out there as well. brought her out801Jand brought her out a little bit more. Exterior438Jwith this very bluff exterior in2296Jshe's not no malice in her at all and Metaphor analysis by Lynne Cameron Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

18 Traits inside Traits inside but relationally, not inside an individual Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

19 Methodological Challenges: The Visual, Haptic and Ethereal Evidence How different types of evidence are used and work Exploring the legitimacy, seduction and influence of different types of evidence (evidential nature of the visual?) Social sciences role in analysing and critiquing dominant ways of theorising/expert knowledge, including its own. Questioning straightforward social/biological/genetic distinctions Especially where social is defined in opposition to genetic or biological Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

20 Methodological Challenges Appearance and Social Science Research Methodological and political/ethical challenges. The personal, relational and wider politics/ethics of appearance. Difficult territory, especially eg disability, race. What can be read about how people are connected to others, what they are like, attributes etc. Challenging the ontological tyranny of the individual – researching relationality In social science (individuals as units of analysis), in genetics (genes inside a body/person) and biology. Conceptualising and researching what is inside-between and beyond persons. Real Life Methods, part of the National Centre for Research Methods

21 Real Life Methods Part of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods THE END


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