What is interpretivist interviewing? (Frederic Schaffer)

What is interpretivist interviewing? (Frederic Schaffer)

This talk explores the promise of interpretivist interviewing for political science. That promise is to elucidate, up-close and self-reflectively, how people experience and understand phenomena that range from migration to democracy to genocide. It does so by exploring with interviewees how they give sense to their world and by analyzing the ways in which both interviewee and interviewer co-generate that knowledge in an interactive dance inflected by situated power dynamics and self-presentations. Rather than attempting to insulate the interview from so-called “bias” and “contamination”—an aspiration ill-suited to interpretivism—the roles of interviewer and interviewee are instead examined to show how the interviewer and interviewee’s respective concerns and interests, along with the play of power and presentation which results, shape the knowledge they co-construct.

Frederic Schaffer is Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His prior publications include Democracy in Translation: Understanding Politics in an Unfamiliar Culture (1998), Elections for Sale: The Causes and Consequences of Vote Buying (2007), The Hidden Costs of Clean Election Reform (2008), and Elucidating Social Science Concepts: An Interpretivist Guide (2016). His most recent work includes "Two Ways to Compare" in Rethinking Comparison: Innovative Methods for Qualitative Political Inquiry (2021) and a chapter on "Interpretivist Interviewing" in The Oxford Handbook of Methodological Pluralism in Political Science (forthcoming). He is currently writing a conceptual history of “the voter.”

You can join this talk via zoom by following this link: https://anu.zoom.us/j/3364169330?pwd=ZStOdm4vTWpwS1RMbmFYUisxWVB2UT09

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For more information on the talks or the IMC, write to the convenors: April Biccum and Nick Cheesman


Date & time

Fri 10 Mar 2023, 12–1pm




Frederic Schaffer

Event series


Nick Cheesman


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