Methods of materiality: Participant observation and qualitative research in psychology

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This article challenges the hegemonic status of “language” as the primary substance of qualitative research in psychology, whether through interviews or recordings of naturally occurring talk. It thereby questions the overt focus on analyzing linguistic “meaning.” Instead, it is suggested that researchers should start paying attention to the material world (consisting of both human bodies and material objects) and what it means for how people live their lives. It is argued that this can be done by incorporating the concept of material presence to capture embodied and material layers of existence, and the method of participant observation is suggested as a viable approach to achieve this end. An empirical example of how authority is produced in a parent-teacher conference, not only through language but also through material objects and embodied being, is then presented. The article concludes by suggesting practical guidelines for incorporating attention to materiality in qualitative research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research in Psychology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)33-46
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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