Accepted Paper:

Real Life Role-Play  

Authors:

Chris Bunn (Cambridge University Hospital)
Sonia Zafer-Smith (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the interaction of subjectivities in interviews carried out within the field of health research. It asks whether these kinds of interviews are best understood as a role play based on tacit exchange and assumptions in which social cues and improvisation direct the narrative shared.

Paper long abstract:

In the field of health studies, anthropologists and sociologists are increasingly being employed to conduct 'cold' interviews with previously unknown participants. In this time space, it is believed that interviewer and participant will somehow connect, disclose and discuss the participant's personal narrative in an intimate shared environment. The researcher is imagined to control the interview, unravelling key revelations, extracting rich metaphors, or perhaps unquestioned cultural assumptions from the participant, for the end of the project in hand. But is this meeting really between a participant and a social scientist? If the participant has no prior understanding of this form of research, then what is the perceived role that they assign to the interviewer? And how might they weave their narrative in response to the scenario in hand? And what of our interviewer? As an inherently social agent, as social as their participant, does she/he ever accommodate or pre-empt the assumptions of their participant? In the absence of a ready-made role to reach for, what characters might the social scientist adopt, perform and embellish from the repertoire of social interaction available? Does the interview ever take up the role of say a counsellor, or consultant to facilitate the interview?

Through an analysis of two interviews conducted as part of medical research trials, we probe the nature of the subjectivities constructed and negotiated in these encounters and ask, is the interview process a role play based on tacit exchange and assumptions in which social cues and improvisation direct the narrative shared?

Panel P05
The subject(ivity) of the interview: performance and construction in anthropology and sociology