0891241606293134.pdf - Open-Ended Interviews Power and Emotional Labor Journal of Contemporary Ethnography Volume 36 Number 3 June 2007 318-346 2007

0891241606293134.pdf - Open-Ended Interviews Power and...

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318 Open-Ended Interviews, Power, and Emotional Labor Elizabeth A. Hoffmann Purdue University This article investigates the power dynamics of the interview process and the connected emotional labor, drawing on examples from a recent study on workplace grievances in which most data collection was through open-ended interviews. By exploring the shifts of power and the emotional labor demands in the qualitative, open-ended interview, this article emphasizes that power shifts and emotions within the interview are, themselves, important data. A greater awareness of shifts in interviewer and interviewee power and emo- tional labor in the interview context helps the researcher better understand the nuances of the data, provides the researcher with more information about the interviewee and the research topic, and facilitates greater insights into the interview process, the participants, and the nature of the topics discussed. Keywords: interviews; power; emotional labor; qualitative methods T he interview is a complex activity. As Arendell (1997, 344) writes, “The researcher must remain cognizant of and handle several activities simultaneously. The conversation with the interviewee, a dialogue, has to be followed closely; responses and attempts to change the line and direc- tion of discussion considered, anticipated, and guided . . . and the overall situation monitored, logistically and emotionally.” As Gubrium and Holstein (2002, 3) wrote in the introduction to their well- respected Handbook of Interview Research , “[a]t first glance, the interview seems simple and self-evident.” In this model, “[respondents are relatively passive in their roles, which are delimited by the interviewer . . . . This is the familiar asymmetrical relationship that we recognize as interviewing” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography Volume 36 Number 3 June 2007 318-346 © 2007 Sage Publications 10.1177/0891241606293134 hosted at Author’s Note: This research was supported by a National Science Foundation (SBR- 9801948). The author wishes to thank Jane Collins, Mark C. Suchman, and Kris Paap for their suggestions on earlier drafts of this article. Correspondence may be addressed to Elizabeth A. Hoffmann; Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Purdue University; 1365 Stone Hall; West Lafayette, IN 47907; e-mail: [email protected]
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(Gubrium and Holstein 2002, 3). “The basic model, however, locates valuable information inside the respondent and assigns the interviewer the task of some- how extracting it . . . the image of the subject is not of an agent engaged in the production of knowledge” (p. 12). In this model, it is the job of the researcher to extricate the information from the interviewee without the interviewee (or the interviewer) contaminating the data with subjectivity or inappropriate input. More recently, however, researchers have moved away from what Gubrium and Holstein call the “basic model” toward the new “active model.” In this model, complete subjectivity is not the ultimate goal and the inter- viewee plays a more active role in the interview. Thus, from this perspective,
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