Ethical Quandary of Discourse Analyst Interviewing

Martyn Hammersley, never one to shy from instigating hard looks at methodology for qualitative researchers, has recently called into ethical question the research practice of conducting discourse analysis on interviews as a kind of bait-and-switch contrary to the priority of informed consent.  Qualitative Research provided a couple of responses from Stephanie Taylor and Robin Smith that encapsulate the responses that come to mind immediately to me–and more.  Yet Hammersley’s charges nag at me, because they articulate hesitations that have bothered me in my few, immature attempts at discourse analytic research.  

As an example, even as Ben Rampton talks about opening up the tools of discourse analysis to those educational practitioners under study, in a manner that might mitigate some of those ethical concerns, he is uncharacteristically limited in vision, from my point of view.  As an analyst, I think we have some hard thinking to do.

Translucency in a life of faith

I’m thinking about a moving conversation I had with a good brother yesterday, one where the content of a sermon he preached plus an extent of depravity in my own life conspired together to move me to recognize how perversely I had been running away from integrity, from truthfulness, from God.  It was so clear, momentarily, fleetingly, what I had to do, what I had to be.  I had mucked things up.  I had to own that.  I had to come out of hiding, and repentance meant honesty, and honesty meant having to reveal the thing I had been hiding to the person I’d been hiding it from.  And then being willing to accept the relinquishment of autonomy that would result from submitting as an act of love.  

I’m reading Rowan Williams’ Dostoevsky: Language, Faith, and Fiction, revisiting some of the articulations of life/faith that have shaped me in the past decade: Dostoevsky, Bakhtin, and academic/ecclesial Anglicans.  He argues in tne introduction that, post-Bakhtin, encamping Dostoevsky in the question of God’s existence in modernity is quite shallow.  The question for Dostoevsky is not God, present or absent, but how it can be that God is seen, known, related to, in the tumble of this world.  I love Karamazov because holiness feels all around, devilry feels all around, and it swirls around humans, humans who are human indeed, rotting and decaying, but always somehow imperfectly flickering the image of grace, the image of holiness.  Even in Ivan’s haunting gallows, in Alyosha’s searching, in Grushenka’s provocations.  Evil is always near.  God is always near. 

I feel like we search and aspire to be unvarnished mirrors or transparent vessels, or else we resolutely or rebelliously embrace our opacity to the spiritual, but those pendulum swings only keep us from accepting that the life of faith is a matter of translucency– always blurred, always faded, always tarnished, but always refracting something we cannot easily snuff out or deny.  God’s alive and speaking, though our language will never speak or embody him.