Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Qualitative Methods Conference: "The Body Politic"
3 & 4 September 1996, Johannesburg, South Africa


Bodies of knowledge

Phenomenology as a viable methodological approach

to the study of indigenous healing

Tholene Sodi

Department of Psychology, University of Venda

Studies investigating the practice of indigenous healing have generally adopted an anthropological or psychodynamic orientation. These two approaches have been criticized for imposing a Western perspective which is not sensitive to the unique cultural experiences of a non-Western people. A few studies have attempted to understand indigenous healing from within a phenomenological perspective by explicating the experiences of indigenous healers and their patients as meaning structures within a societal context. This paper takes a critical look at these few phenomenological studies by identifying their methodological strengths and weaknesses. The paper is concluded by arguing that despite its methodological weaknesses, phenomenology is a viable option for investigating indigenous healing.

One of the earliest attempts to understand and explain indigenous healing in South Africa was made by Laubscher (1937) in his book entitled: "Sex, Custom and Psychopathology". Using Western medical and psychological standards, Laubscher described an indigenous healer as a quack whose work could only be meaningful to the superstitious, culturally retarded and primitive populations. What Laubscher was trying to suggest was that indigenous African people who embraced Western culture and civilization would stop consulting indigenous healers whose practices could be interpreted by those "converts" as meaningless and retrogressive.

The strong ethnocentric flavour in Laubscher's argument is further reflected in his explanation of "go thwasa" (a process through which an individual becomes an indigenous healer) as a schizophrenic process. Since he held the view that schizophrenia is an inherited biochemical disorder, he treated the finding that indigenous healers have ancestors who were also indigenous healers as a confirmation of a psychopathology with a hereditary basis. The possibility that the practice of indigenous healing may have validity in a scientific or epistemological framework other than that with a preconceived methodological approach was not raised by Laubscher.

The line of thinking as reflected in Laubscher's work is also evident in many other studies that have tended to approach indigenous healing from within the context of similar preconceived modes of inquiry. For example, Lee (1969) described "go thwasa" as a psychoneurotic condition, thus giving a suggestion that this experience is not as disintegrative as Laubscher had earlier suggested. Hammond-Tooke (1975) in his authoritative paper entitled: "African world view and its relevance to psychiatry", echoed the same sentiment and went on to suggest the possibility of gender differences in terms of the severity of the supposed psychoneurosis. In his view male indigenous healers as compared to their female counterparts:

"... appeared nervous, moody and probably homosexual, much given to hysterical giggling. Male initiates adopt female dress and sometimes speak in high pitched voice" (p.31).

What is interestingly common and very striking the three authors I have referred to above is their tendency to invalidate some non-Western experiences using methodological tools that tend to disregard the perspective of the experiencing individuals. In other words, these researchers generally failed to see the world through the eyes of those being studied. According to Heddegard and Hakkarainen (1986), a social scientific inquiry calls for a considerable level of involvement by the researcher with the people whose experiences he / she is trying to investigate. The suggestion here is that the researcher should be involved by becoming part of the subject's life situation and by also seeing the world through the eyes of such a person. Elkonin (1986) who had earlier expressed the same sentiment, gave an example of an investigator who need to bracket his / he preconceived ideas and take part in children's play if his / her goal is to understand the inner relations of such an activity. By looking at the play activity through the eyes of the child, Elkonin maintained, the researcher will be in a position to produce detailed descriptions of the experience.

A scientific method of inquiry that has consistently advocated for bracketing of preconceived ideas and the understanding of phenomena as they appear to consciousness is phenomenology. In his often quoted work entitled: "An application of phenomenological method in psychology", Giorgi (1975) identified eight characteristics that make phenomenology a viable approach to the study of human phenomena. As I will try to illustrate by describing a few research studies later, these characteristics that Giorgi identifies appear to be the essential ingredients of that orientation that needs to be adopted by those seeking to understand indigenous healing.

I will now summarize these eight characteristics:

1. Fidelity to the phenomenon as it is lived: This means that all descriptions reflecting the subject's lived experiences are considered an important source of data for analysis. Equally important here is the need to make explicit the perspective of the researcher as this is seen to have a bearing on the research situation.

2. Primacy of the life-world: In order to capture the subject's lived experiences, the researcher will need to go back to the life-world in which the subject is embedded. This should provide the necessary point of departure in terms of a research undertaking. To quote Giorgi here:

"By the life-world phenomenologists mean the everyday world as lived by all of us prior to explanations and theoretical interpretations of any kind. Since the life-world is the ground for all science and systematic knowledge, psychology conceived as a human science must always stay in touch with this inexhaustible source of data" (1975, p.99).

3. Descriptive approach: Because of its reliance on what is communicated by the subject in the form of language, phenomenological psychology nrrds to rigorously analyze the descriptions given in order to understand human phenomena. This point has been extensively covered by Giorgi in his subsequent writings (see Giorgi, 1986; 1994).

4. Expression of the situation from the subject's viewpoint: In setting up a structure for research, phenomenological psychology is very much concerned with the subject's viewpoint. The point here is that rich data can best be obtained if the subjects are given the freedom to choose their own examples of lived experiences.

5. Situation as unit of research implies a structural approach: Since phenomenological psychology accepts lived situation as the basic unit of research, there is a need to take into account the interpersonal context that is created by the very act of investigation. Understood from this angle, it therefore becomes imperative to consider the exchanges between the researcher and subject when research data is interpreted.

6. From the personal to the general: Giorgi tried to draw a line between traditional experimental psychology and phenomenological psychology in terms of how theoretical concepts are formulated. Unlike the former which tends to formulate its concepts before undertaking the investigation, phenomenological psychology seeks to develop these concepts after contact with the data. In this sense, phenomenological psychology would start with the personal accounts of the subjects and on the basis of these gradually generate and construct theoretical positions.

7. Search for meaning: While the measurement method in scientific research is generally regarded as an important route, phenomenological psychology seeks to directly get to the meaning of the phenomenon without necessarily having to go through the measurement process in the strict sense of the word. As Giorgi (1975) wrote:

"The value of the phenomenological approach is the direct access it provides to meaning by interrogating the qualitative aspects of the phenomenon" (p.101 - 102).

8. Engaged researcher: Wether or not the researcher should play an active role in the constitution of the data has been a debatable issue in psychological research. A common question that is often asked is: Should the researcher play an active role in the creation of the data or should he / she treat the data as self-made and complete in itself independent of the investigator? Though he is not in favour of taking an extreme position on this matter, Giorgi is of the view that phenomenological psychology should treat the results of a scientific inquiry as products of an engaged researcher.

By way of demonstrating the viability of a phenomenological method in the investigation of indigenous healing, I propose to present three illustrative research studies that sought to investigate some aspects of this healing practice. In his dissertation submitted for a Masters degree, Schweitzer (1977) sought to understand some categories of experience amongst the Xhosa speaking people of South Africa. One such experience that he studied is the "thwasa" experience which I have already briefly referred to in this paper. Schweitzer's major objective in the dissertation was to uncover the real nature and meaning of the "thwasa" phenomenon. Approaching the subject from a phenomenological perspective, he challenged the predominant universalist medical model that had tended to project this experience as a reflection of psychopathology.

Schweitzer described the "thwasa" phenomenon as a creative illness in which the affected individual:

1. is helped by an established indigenous healer, clan members and the whole community to interprete his / her symptoms within an African (Xhosa) cosmology;

2. establishes positive contacts with the spiritual world; and,

3. acquires respect and wisdom in his / her community by virtue of the new role as an indigenous healer.

Following from his dissertation, Schweitzer collaborated with Buhrmann (a psychiatrist and Jungian psychoanalyst) to write a journal article on the "thwasa" experience. Extending on the phenomenological interpretation, Schweitzer and Buhrmann (1978) viewed the experience as:

"... a process of disintegration, resulting in chaos, which then enables reintegration to occur" (p.15).

Concluding the article these two authors went on to suggest that the "thwasa" phenomenon be seen as a meaningful experience that is purposefully directed towards altering and determining the individual's new role in society.

The second study that I would like to refer to is also a Master's dissertation by Miller (1984). In this particular study, the researcher made a phenomenological investigation of some aspects of a Zionist healing service. Specifically Miller sought to explicate the nature and meaning of music and dance as they are perceived and experienced within the context of a spiritual healing service. To obtain his data, the researcher in this particular study identified a Zionist spiritual healer who served as a chief informant. The researcher considered two reasons for the choice of this one spiritual healer. Firstly, it was established that the informant was a spiritual healer of good standing in the community, having 32 years of experience. Secondly, the informant had already served as a subject in two previous phenomenological investigations. Furthermore he expressed a willingness to participate in this third investigation.

According to Miller, the choice of phenomenology as an appropriate methodological approach for his study was based on his criticism of previous studies that had tended to give a passing judgement on the syncretic practices of the African spiritual churches. In his view, such research imposes a Western perspective on this unique belief structure by distorting its essential meaning whilst at the same time superimposing extrinsic schemata of analysis. By adopting a phenomenological stance, Miller thus located his study within the qualitative research tradition the primary task of which is not to prejudge but to interprete phenomena as lived and experienced.

To obtain data, Miller became a participant observer for a period of 12 night healing services which he tape recorded. In addition, he conducted a series of unstructured interviews with the chief informant who was encouraged to give his own understanding of the meannig of the songs and dance within the context of the healing service. A very important finding by Miller was that music and dance turn potential chaos of existential isolation by uniting the affected individual and others in the group in a collective experience of being together. Miller further established that by constituting themselves as a community in this way, these individuals affirm and legitimate the possibility of existing in relation to a cosmic mode of being.

The third and final study that I would like to briefly present is my own Ph.D thesis entitled: "The psychological validity of the process of indigenous healing". The specific aim of this study was to describe and interprete the process of indigenous healing as perceived by the indigenous healers themselves. The data obtained was analyzed in terms of the four phases of phenomenological explication as set out by Giorgi (1985) and Kruger (1988). Briefly, the four phases are as follows:

1. Sense of the whole - During this phase the text is read several times with two specific aims in mind: (i). to understand the language of the describer, and (ii). to get an intuitive and holistic grasp of the data. What is basically required of the researcher at this stage is to remain faithful to the data by avoiding any temptation to interrogate the research protocols in order to derive psychological insight.

2. Discrimination of "natural meaning units" (NMU's) - This second phase requires the researcher to breakdown the text into naturally occurring meaning units that will be manageable and easy to analyze. The basic requirement is that each NMU which spontaneously emerges from the text should convey a particular meaning. The researcher should then articulate the essence of these NMU's using the subject's phraseology as much as possible in order to "let the data speak for itself".

3. Transformation of NMU's into psychologically expressed themes - During this phase the researcher starts by rigorously reflecting on the NMU's which are still in the ordinary language of the subject. According to Kruger (1988), this act of reflection is intended to transform the NMU's into central themes that are expressed in psychological language. A related activity is that of imaginative variation whereby the researcher reflects on the imagined possibilities inherent in each central theme and discards those that fail to withstand criticism.

4. Synthesis of emerging themes into a consistent psychological structure - This last phase is usually divided into two steps as recommended by Kruger (1988). During the first step, all the central themes are synthesized to communicate the psychological insights contained, taking the particular context of the experiencing individual into consideration. During the second step all these psychological insights contained in the specific descriptions are put together to develop a general description of the subject under investigation.

Following the four phases as I have outlined above, three themes, each addressing some aspect of the process of indigenous healing were consequently identified:

1. "Go thwasa" is a preparatory step that leads to integration of personality, acquisition of clinical competencies and attainment of some transcendental experiences.

2. Indigenous healers attach culturally congruent labels to clusters of physical and psychological symptoms presented by their clients.

3. Indigenous healing is a multiphasic process that is aimed at the client and the total home environment while at the same time providing an opportunity for some to access spiritual dimensions of their experiences.

By way of summary the following important points emerge from the three illustrative research studies that I have presented in this paper:

1. Contrary to certain popular medical and anthropological beliefs, some non-Western experiences like "go thwasa" are perceived as meaningful if studied and understood from the perspective of the experiencing individual.

2. Given the calls for the recognition of indigenous healing in South Africa and elsewhere in the world, there is a need to understand this alternative form of health care. In this regard phenomenology appears to be a viable approach as it tends to give primacy to the lived expeiences of those studied.


Elkonin, A.J.J. Introduction. In Ashworth, P.D., Giorgi, A., and De Koning, A.J. (eds). Qualitative Research in Psychology. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

Hammond-Tooke, W.D. (1975). African world-view and its relevance for psychiatry. Psychologia Africana, 16, 25 - 32.

Heddegaard, M., and Hakkarainen, P. (1986). Qualitative research as instructional intervention. In Ashworth, P.D., Giorgi, A., and De Koning, A.J. (eds). Qualitative research in psychology. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

Giorgi, A. (1994). A phenomenological perspective on certain qualitative research methods. Journal of phenomenological psychology, 25 (2), 190 - 220.

Giorgi, A. (1986). Theoretical justification for the use of descriptions in psychological research. In Ashworth, P.D., Giorgi, A., and De Koning, A.J.J. (eds). Qualitative Research in Psychology. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

Giorgi, A. (1985). Sketch of a psychological phenomenological method. In Giorgi, A. (ed). Phenomenology and psychological research. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

Giorgi, A. (1975). An application of phenomenological method in psychology. In Giorgi, A., Fischer, C., and Murray, E. (eds). Duquesne Studies in Phenomenological Psychology. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

Kruger, D. (1988). An introduction to phenomenological psychology (second edition). Cape Town: Juta and Company Ltd.

Lee, S.G. (1969). Spirit possession among the Zulu. In Beattie, J., and Middleton, J. (eds). Spirit Mediumship and Society in Africa. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Miller, M. (1984). Singing and dancing in holy spirit: an understanding of the Xhosa Zionist healing service. Unpublished master's dissertation. Grahamstown: Rhodes University.

Schweitzer, R.D., and Buhrmann, V. (1978). An existential-phenomenological interpretation of thwasa among the Xhosa. Psychotherapeia, 4, 15- 18.

Schweitzer, R.D. (1977). Categories of experience amongst the Xhosa: A psychological study. Unpublished master's dissertation. Grahamstown: Rhodes University.

Sodi, T. (1996). The psychological validity of the process of indigenous healing. Ph.D thesis in progress. Cape Town: University of Cape Town.

Sodi_Tholene/[email protected]

University of Venda

Department of Psychology

Private Bag X5050



The hermeneutics of distanciation in programme evaluation

K J Kelly

Psychology Department, Rhodes University

Some of the hermeneutic methods used in evaluation of a 'drama in health education' project are presented. Understanding of the value of these methods in programme evaluation is derived from an appreciation of the centrality of the function of distanciation in the hermeneutics of human action. This is of particular interest in the project studied, where the focus is on high school sexuality and the aim of the participatory drama project is to problematise and transform sexual practices. The paper addresses the problematic consequences of interpreting the body in its subjective context, and emphasises the necessity of interpreting the body, as it were, from a distance. The paper ends with a reflection on the need to weave critical reflection into participatory research practices.

When we ask people what they feel, or what they desire; and ask them to account for their opinions or attitudes, and the motives for their actions; what can we expect in terms of them being able to respond to our enquiry? I will attempt to address this question in relation to a context where I acted as a programme evaluator and where the question has a practical significance.

The context is an evaluation of the Eastern Cape Dramaide project. This was a six month pilot project which explored the use of `participatory theatre' methods in sex and life skill education in high schools in the Eastern Cape. This project was part of a larger Dramaide initiative concerned with development of theatre methods in life skills education. The project team consisted of six members who were directly involved as facilitators, and two administrators.

The project set out to engage high school pupils in a reflection upon their sexuality and sought to instil conscious informed decision making in respect of sexual behaviour, particularly in the context of the HIV epidemic. This work was set in a general value framework which upheld and attempted to instil such values as self-respect, tolerance of others, regard for other and the need for appropriate assertive behaviour in the sexual arena.

The Dramaide intervention consisted of a four stage intervention comprised of: 1) a needs analysis process; 2) a life skills education process; 3) presentation of a play to be used as a stimulus for engaging the pupil's in approaching their own sexuality and relationships in a questioning way, and leading to formulation of constructive ways of dealing with problematic issues in their lives; 4) an Open Day where the school took up the issues addressed in the project as their own, and planned their own community event to address these issues.

The philosophy behind the project was somewhat of a unique assimilation of theatre and social development methodologies. The methodology drew heavily on the work of Augusto Boal (1985) (image theatre, forum theatre, guerilla theatre). The epistemological foundations of the participatory research method used, were quite strongly influenced by the work of Paulo Freire. However, I will not go further into these ideas or the exact nature of the intervention, as interesting as it is, for I wish in this context only to explore a particular dimension of this project arising from my own involvement in it.

My role in the project was programme evaluator. I was contracted as an outside researcher to evaluate the project with respect to its feasibility; it being a pilot project. In addition I was to pass on my findings to the team as the project proceeded so that the team could use this information in the ongoing development of their intervention. This latter function is termed process evaluation. As a process evaluator I was closely associated with the team throughout the project, and witnessed the planning and execution of the four stage intervention in six of the ten schools chosen for the project.

A full evaluation is presently in preparation and the purpose of this presentation is to detail only a few, specific facets of the comprehensive evaluation process, which allow me to address the topic of my presentation, `the hermeneutics of distanciation in programme evaluation'.

There were many methods employed in this evaluation. We (a research assistant and myself) used questionnaires, focus group discussions, interviews, observation, audio-visual recordings of interventions and audience responses, and analysis of plays and other cultural productions performed on the Open Days.

For the purposes of this presentation the methods used can be divided into two broad categories. Those (principally focus groups and interviews) which asked people to express their thoughts, feelings and attitudes, and those which interpreted their experience, so to speak, from the outside. The latter category includes observation, audiovisual recording of events and an image theatre technique presently to be discussed. The former set of methods are based on an implicit trust that people are more or less reliable in accounting for their own experience. The latter approach, usually employing observation as a method, tends to be more wary of people's interpretations of their own experience, and generates alternative, contrary interpretations (of motives especially). We might say that the former relies on a hermeneutics of trust or faith, whereas the latter employs a hermeneutics of suspicion.

There are many ways of articulating the dialectical relationship between these contrasting hermeneutic orientations. The former kind of understanding which tends to trust that the psychological subject is finally best positioned to articulate his/her own reality, is typically associated with humanism and phenomenology, and is well represented in psychology, anthropology and sociology. Politically speaking it contains an inherently populist ethic, and arguments in its favour are often set as a reaction against the imposition of understanding by the culturally more dominant upon the realities of those who, for whatever reason, have not the power to make their own voices heard. The other orientation is, broadly speaking, based on the idea that consciousness may be false, that we may misunderstand ourselves, and that sometimes others are better positioned to know us, and to articulate our realities than we ourselves are. Freud, Marx and Nietzsche, masters of suspicion, might be seen as the proponents of this approach; questioning as they do our ability to speak our own reality.

Much can be said about these two hermeneutic frameworks and their relationship; which I may say in passing can be shown to be dialectically rather than dichotomously related. I have found the work of Paul Ricoeur (1981a, 1981b, 1981c) to be particularly instructive in clarifying the relationship between these hermeneutical functions; which he names `participatory belonging' and `distanciation' respectively. The dialectical, tensional relationship between these hermeneutical functions is foundational to his entire epistemological system. However, I will not go any further in describing the many different manifestations of this root dialectic, and wish to restrict myself to a narrow terrain, and with practical purposes in mind. I wish only to show that when we engage in participatory research relationships that aim at the development of critical reflection, we inevitably invoke the hermeneutics of distanciation. The research participant to whose benefit the research relationship is directed, is necessarily placed in an invidious relationship to his/her own intuitive, taken-for-granted experience. What is revealed through distanciation (and I hope that this will presently be demonstrated) does not have the immediate ring of truth that accompanies statements arising from our pre-reflective appropriation of understanding. The distanciated interpretation, for example, that whereas I experience myself as being polite, I am actually being arrogant and condescending, might conceivably be true. But it might not immediately and intuitively seem to be so to me.

We may say that the one form of hermeneutical experience is accountable to subjectivity. The findings represent subjective experience and empathy is the method for accessing this. Empathy is the method in question. The other form of hermeneutical experience is accountable to the ways things are, in spite of how the subject may or may not conceive them. It tends towards objectivity. There are a good many reasons why it is legitimate to talk of being more objective by having access to this function, but I would prefer to avoid having to justify this except to give a few examples. These examples could, I believe, be used in developing support for a realist epistemology in the human sciences, which can speak of interpretations being more objective, or as approaching objectivity, without finally making claims to absolute objectivity.

We are concerned here with what can be said, for example, of a moment in time by virtue of the perspective of hindsight. We would not have to look long to find our own examples of how the benefit of questions posed after an event allow us to make statements about the event, which we would want to say are true of the event, but were not be known in the context of the event. So I can discover myself to have been living an oppressed life without having known it then and I would want to say that I really was oppressed then, in spite of my apparent freedom. In other words, the interpretation is not a re-interpreting of experience but a real apprehension of something that was lived but not yet known. A different kind of example is the knowing of another (say a child by its mother). The mother is better positioned to know, in some respects, who a child is and what the child is becoming, by virtue of seeing the child in his/her complete biographical context. The child knows him/herself only in the context of the present and its immediate surrounds. By virtue of being in a context, of living a moment we are often precluded from seeing the broader contexts in which our experience is mounted, and the attendant meanings which we live in a received and taken-for-granted way. We have access to the world through our own perspectives (horizons), but what we don't see by virtue of having those perspectives cannot be evident to us, except in so far as we look at our experience from the perspective of others. A further example is the holding of beliefs which we cannot know as being what they are whilst we hold them, because to know them as `just beliefs' we would have to suspend our belief in their reality and hence our experience of belief. A different kind of example is the knowing of emotional states, which can only be known for what they are in their passing. As observers we may be structurally better positioned than the person having the experience to perceive patterns of emotional experience. From the perspective of living through an experience we are often not able to see the links between experiences, and the patterns which bind certain a sequence of experiences into their temporal structure. This is possibly most true of emotional experiences. The intensity and immediacy of feeling-experience is such that it tends to exert a type of Procrustean influence on our perception. The world is coloured by the current feeling to the extent that the person cannot see except through the feeling, with its attendant immediacies and foreclosures.

Of course more needs to be said about all of this and some of these examples may need to be better put, or discarded, if the point is to be convincingly made. A more methodical exploration of the dialectical functioning of these epistemological functions in applied psychology, can be found in Kelly (1994). However, I hope that a point has been made; namely, that subjectivity is not transparent to itself and as subjects we are not necessarily well positioned to perceive our own forestructures of experience. We need distance, finally, to apprehend ourselves, and to gain a comprehensive picture of what we think and feel and do.

I now wish to move on to explore the place of distanciation in situations where the `other' is given the role of evoking interpretation which may run counter to subjective experience, in the context of a dialogue with the subject. Such is the psychotherapy context. In attempting to describe the persistent rejection of interpretations by the patient, psychotherapists sometimes use the concept of resistance. Resistance is the rejection by of the subject of what is perceived to be an inaccurate or unfounded interpretation on the part of the therapist/interpreter. Another context where the researcher's interpretations are given back directly to the subject of the interpretation is in the participatory research relationship.

When the researcher's interpretations are delivered directly to the subject of the research in the context of a dialogue, one has an interpersonal re-enactment of the situation of the subject reflecting in a distanciated way on his/her own experience. In a development situation where the meeting is between the subjective experience of the structurally disempowered and the critical reflector in the form of a facilitator of change agent, the contrast between the two hermeneutical perspectives takes a distinctly political turn. This paper ends with some reflections on the management of this interpretive interaction, but before I turn to this I wish to show the value, from an epistemological perspective, of using methods of distanciation in social research.

At the heart of the Dramaide project was a commitment to the Freirian action-reflection cycle. This was conceived as operating between the team and the evaluator and between the team and their own work; and it was planned that the project would engage the pupils in reflecting on their own sexuality.

The Freirian dialogical method, in general terms, involves reflecting on experience in order to `problematise' experience. Having problematised the experience the task moves towards finding solutions to the problems thus identified. This formulation contains the idea that we can live an experience which is problematic to us without us knowing it. We can collude with our own subjugation or oppression and not know our collusion for what it is. We can have best interests which are not known to us. This orientation probably derives from the Marxist side of Freire's unique mix of Marxism and humanism.

His method has been translated into a broad range of techniques for achieving this end. A generic form of his method is to get people to reflect on a representation of their experience (generative code) and to describe what is happening in that code (which may take the form of a picture, a play, a poem or any other cultural production). Having begun to divulge their ways of understanding using the code as a context, and having begun to develop a grasp of the themes through which they think, the facilitator then turns to ask them to use these themes in understanding their own everyday contexts. The method ignites the interpretive sensibilities before turning to understand the difficult subject of that which we live in an everyday, intuitive, pre-reflective way. It gets discussion to focus on ways of understanding an external situation and then examines how these ways of understanding work to structure everyday reality. Once this reflection is underway it is the facilitators task to challenge the understanding which underlies everyday action. Through this the participants in such exercises are brought to realise that their understanding constitutes a problem and they are challenged to deepen and broaden this understanding. New understanding that develops is explored for its practical import and alternative courses of action are derived from it.

The philosophical foundations to this kind of work are laid out in Freire's (1972) `Pedagogy of the oppressed'. In the Dramaide intervention aspects of Freirian epistemology were applied, if in somewhat atypical forms. For example, students were presented with carefully designed frieze frames constructed by actors with props acting out interpersonal dilemmas relating to sexual decisions. They were then asked to say what was happening in the situation. Generative codes are constructed to portray a theme, but with ambiguity carefully constructed into the theme, such that while the code is suggestive it allows one to project one's own interpretations onto the scene. TAT (Thematic Apperception Test) cards might be seen to operate in a similar way. Then, having entered into energised discussion about the scene students were asked to describe whether these things happened in their lives. They thus were brought back to their own experience, in consciousness of particular themes.

Further stages of the Dramaide process attempted to problematise their interpretations, as described above; but this proved to be a difficult task. I will presently come on to discuss this, but will first elaborate further on the epistemological distanciation process.

Not only were students invited to interpret frieze frames performed for them, but were asked to construct their own frieze frames. They were asked to present scenes which represent their own sexual dilemmas. In so doing they largely followed the themes which had emerged in their interpretation of the scenes that were presented to them. On a content level some different issues were raised, but these were issues such as gang rape and fighting over women which they knew well as problematic social issues and which they seemed to simply lift out of popular discourse. In other words what they consciously presented represented what they could easily speak, what they already knew. Now the point of the exercise was to understand themselves more deeply, and if all that were to be achieved were to come to realise what was already known, one may well wonder about the value of the exercise. As it happens what they produced was loaded with clues to features of their sexuality that may be assumed to be intrinsic to their experience, but being foundational to the structure of their experience, they represented it without being able themselves to consciously identify it. It was unconsciously presented in the structure of what they presented rather than by conscious design. For example, their frieze frames when considered together, were strongly characterised by gender themes. These were not represented in their conscious understanding of their own experience. This became particularly clear to observers who noted how these images were constructed, and noted who led the creation of images, and at what point different people entered the creative process and in what way.

The pupils unconsciously presented frieze frames strongly characterised by male insecurity and female passivity. Males would often be represented, for example, as fighting over what seemed like an endangered resource (women), while women would be characterised as watching the brutality with a mixture of fascination/amusement and disgust/horror. Women also seemed caught in the midst of the contradictory pulls of the need for independence and the need for support. Women would seldom intervene in the conflicts that were set up because they were caught in a trap of needing to be wanted, yet wanted in terms that were not offered by males in the constructed image. All of these interpretation could not be readily entertained by the pupils, because while they may represent structures of experience, they are not easily known to be true and may even be contradictory to the way students own preferred self-characterizations. Note that I have not addressed the entire vexed question of confirmation of interpretations derived in this way; i.e. confirmation of interpretations of that which we live without knowing. This requires a different approach to confirmation. That I say it is correct or incorrect to interpret my experience in a particular way is no longer anadequate test of veracity. But this issue cannot be adequately addressed in this context.

In videotaping audience responses to plays, it was possible to construct the psychology of the audience in ways which they were not subjectively (or intersubjectively for that matter) well positioned to confirm or not. It became clear that audiences had their own familiar , well trodden ways of dealing with gender inequalities and with the brutalities of sexual harassment, manipulation and abuse. Voyeuristic enjoyment, shame and guilt are some of the varied emotional responses which showed themselves in the close-up images of audiences watching the plays. Asked to account for what the play meant to them and to describe what had happened in the play, the flow of emotion revealed to observers was generally not acknowledged by the very subjects who showed these same emotions.

In the interviews and focus groups which were designed to glean an understanding of what the entire process had meant to various participants, they were able to account for their experiences to the point of being able to say that they had accounted for most of what they had experienced. They had a sense of having had certain types of experiences and they knew when they had accurately represented these. They could confirm whether or not the interviewers had correctly understood what they were saying. What they weren't able to articulate, but which was portrayed in their cultural productions (posters and plays) were the stereotypes and particular prejudices which were the platform, so to speak, from which they thought, felt and acted. The characterisation of male sexuality, for example, was such that the only alternative to male brutality was through taming and self-limiting. The sensitivity of men to rejection, an alternative interpretation, was strongly represented in the projections of the participants, and was noted by observers. But this was represented in the self-accounts of the subjects, and this again showed the need to observe and interpret rather than to take their self-accounts as accurate and sufficient.

The Dramaide team similarly showed at some points that they needed to be shown what they were doing, how they were being in the social milieu. Well intentioned facilitation was, for example, at some points strongly coloured by moral discourse. This may have been amenable to self-reflection, but this could only take place through critical reflection, by a movement of distanciation.

I hope that I have shown why, for epistemological reasons, it may be desirable to reach beyond self-accounts in seeking to interpret experience. I would like also to briefly mention some interpersonal reasons why interview and focus group methods might be limited, as compared to methods which are able to reach conclusions on the basis of observation and interpretation. The desire to please, to be liked, to be helpful, not to be a spoilsport, to support; can mean that interviewees and focus group respondents are led in part by what they perceive the interviewer to be wanting them to say. I have observed how in interpretation of images in a focus group, for example, the group builds upon emerging imagery so as to make the exercise work, rather than because they have a strong affinity for the imagery that is emerging. Rather they suspend the self-representational endeavour and begin to play the game. Similarly people seem to discover the parameters of an interview quite early on and to stay within these. These kind of interpersonal tendencies are further reason why research based on what people say should be treated with circumspection. Research based on interpretation of projections and action is not subject to these constraints.

I have discussed some of the ways in which, in the interests of better interpretation, we might need to distanciate from that which is subjectively (directly and intuitively) understood to be true. Unfortunately the hermeneutics of distanciation do not make for easy politics. In the project studied there were certainly a few politically sensitive moments in this respect, but the facilitators were in such cases usually deferred to the subjective understanding of the participants, and did not pursue their own critical predilections. They deferred this simply because the co-operative relationship was not solidly developed enough to properly extend into the hermeneutics of distanciation; i.e. without endangering the working relationship with participants

There can be no doubt that when people feel understood (i.e. when the interpreter accurately represents subjective understanding) the subject whose experience is interpreted feels supported. Empathy and the emotional experience of support are closely tied. Distanciation is, on the other hand, treated as a challenge, hostility, domination, insensitivity or a lack of support. So it seems that any participatory research process, be it psychotherapy or participatory action social development work, should ideally start by representing people in the way that they see themselves. The Freirian method does just this and having evoked their understanding then attempts to show how their self-understanding is self-limiting and problem making. In developing self-understanding the method brings the participants to conceive of their situation differently, and to find actions appropriate to their new understanding.

Kelly and Van Vlaenderen (1996) have explored some of the problematic interpretative dynamics that can develop in research situations where insufficient attention is given to understanding interpretative relationships. They also suggest some possible ways of creating a climate of dialogical exchange where the meeting of subjective and `alterior' (originating from `the other') perspectives can be mediated and desensitized.

Perhaps the easiest way out is not to voice all that we see, but then the participatory research relationship is likely to yield no more than platitudinous understanding, which is in any case already known to the participants. If the participatory research relationship is to remind people of what they already know, there may yet be some value in it, but this is surely not why people request the assistance of outside researchers in helping them to alleviate a problem which they have. To do real research `with people', I believe, means that we necessarily enter a tricky and implicitly political terrain. I hope I have shown that there are epistemological reasons why this is and will inevitably be so, and I believe that these need to be better understood than they presently are. The `critical moment' in participatory research is politically fraught and the conditions for its proper management are an area deserving of research and theoretical exploration. It is all too easy, particularly in research environments which are already politically sensitive, to engage in collusions of evasion, designed to bypass or resist the recognition of underlying discourses, and concealed in comfortable, familiar and sometimes flattering disguise.

In the Duquesne method of phenomenological research in psychology, there exists a directive that one ask people to talk about or describe their experience, rather than ask them to interpret their experience or communicate their understanding of their experience. This is because as a researcher one tries to get to the `structure of experience' in the sense of that which gives order and form to experience, rather than to get to the person's understanding of experience. The understanding of the structure of experience is in a sense the distanciated interpreter's prerogative. This is not to say that the subject who has the experience is not capable of understanding and interpreting the structure of his/her own experience, but that he/she as a subject is not a privileged interpreter thereof. Thus the subject's confirmation of experience should not be regarded as the measure of the veracity of the interpretation.

In conclusion I would like to point to the tension within participatory research approaches which shows itself in the dual need to speak with the voice of the research subject, and yet to critically reflect on the shortcomings on the subject's understanding of his/her own reality. Empathy and critique do not blend seamlessly into each other, and the presence of one may exclude the presence of the other. It is possible that given certain, optimal conditions in an interpretative relationship, both of these hermeneutical functions can freely be drawn on without the crises of trust which may so easily arise. Each undoubtedly has its particular epistemological achievements and each also limits our knowing in particular ways. It is all too easy in the interests of good relations to rely too much on empathy as a mode of knowing, and it is risky and possibly imperious to rely too heavily on distanciation. In understanding the unique achievements and limitations of these perspectives we can direct our attention to understanding how, when and in what measure we can employ them in participatory research.


Boal, A. (1985). Theatre of the oppressed. New York: Theatre Commmunications Group.

Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Kelly, K.J. (1996). Hermeneutics in psychotherapy: A study of interpretation in the context of the therapeutic dialogue. Doctoral thesis, Rhodes University.

Kelly, K.J. & Van Vlaenderen, H. (1996). Dynamics of participation in a community health project. Social Science and Medicine, 42 (9), 1235-1246.

Ricoeur, P. (1981a). Appropriation. In J. B. Thompson (Ed.), Hermeneutics and the human sciences (pp. 182-193). Cambridge University Press.

Ricoeur, P. (1981b). The hermeneutical function of distanciation. In J. B. Thompson (Ed.), Hermeneutics and the human sciences (pp. 131-144). Cambridge University Press.

Ricoeur, P. (1981c). Phenomenology and hermeneutics. In J. B. Thompson (Ed.), Hermeneutics and the human sciences (pp. 101-128). Cambridge University Press.

[email protected]

Psychology Department

Rhodes University



"You wanna sit around and just explicate, or come upstairs and see my hermeneutics?"

Gavin Ivey

Psychology Department, University of Natal (Durban)

Qualitative methodologies in the social sciences may be categorised as either following a descriptionist or interpretative logic of enquiry. The empirical phenomenological method and the various hermeneutic methods reflect, respectively, these seemingly divergent strategies for disclosing the meaning of human phenomena. Phenomenology seeks to explicate, that is, faithfully describe - and hence make explicit - phenomena as they present themselves, without attributing meaning. Hermeneutics, on the other hand, is concerned with interpreting, that is, attributing a depth or surplus of meaning beyond the self-evident meaning revealed through description. While post-modern philosophy appears to have secured the hegemony of hermeneutics as the only valid logic of enquiry, certain authors continue to advocate a descriptionist stance. The descriptionist perspective is based essentially on the following premises: (1) there exists a valid descriptionist-interpretative dichotomy; (2) within a research context, description is sufficient to comprehend a given experiential phenomenon; (3) interpretation, going beyond intuitive or presentational evidence, is ultimately arbitrary and hence necessarily plagued by an endemic crisis of legitimacy. This paper seeks to critically explore these premises and consider whether, and under what conditions, a phenomenological approach is indeed justified. The arguement will be contextualised with reference to my current research on Satanism and/or paedophilia.

You don't need to leave your room.

Remain sitting at your table and listen.

Don't even listen, simply wait.

Don't even wait.

Be quite still and solitary.

The world will offer itself freely to you.

To be unmasked, it has no choice.

It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

(Franz Kafka)

"The entities of which one is talking must be taken out of their hiddenness; one must let them be seen as something unhidden (alethes); that is, they must be discovered" (Martin Heidegger).

Kafka's joyous depiction of world revelation in response to a particular style of attentiveness, and Heidegger's reference to discovering entities by extracting them from their hiddenness, raises some foundational questions about our research activities. What exactly is it we do when we do qualitative research, how do we go about doing it, and how do we know that we're doing it correctly? As qualitative researchers of one kind or another, we are presumably united by the methodical search for the meaning of human productions, whether verbal, textual, or pictorial. What does this search involve? Broadly speaking, it involves - as Kafka and Heidegger suggest - the revelation of something hidden, the pursuit of world-disclosure.

It is ironical that psychology, concerned as it is with individual experience and behaviour, has only recently discovered the methodological possibilities of hermeneutic theory. However, long before the work of Heidegger, Gadamer, and Ricoeur began to be usefully appropriated by psychology, a group of researchers based at Duquesne University in the USA, were vigorously promoting the empirical study of subjective experience. Based on the assumption that understanding psychological meaning, rather than predicting statistical correlation, was the primary task of human science research, the Duquesne School, under Amedeo Giorgi, developed a rigorous methodology for the empirical study of experiential meaning. This project based, based on the phenomenological philosophy of Edmund Husserl, was undoubtedly influential, and in this country phenomenological research is a popular qualitative alternative to statistical methods.

The objective of this approach is to consciously suspend one's preconceptions about the chosen research phenomenon, and then to rigorously analyse subjective descriptions of it in order to arrive at the essential meaning structures which constitute the experience. This process, commonly referred to as explication, is construed as a descriptive procedure whereby the implicit essential meaning of a phenomenon is made explicit, while fidelity to the subjects' experience is maintained by bracketing one's own intellectual and ideological prejudices. While this Husserlian pursuit of subjective meaning was established as a vanguard against the empire of positivism, a few pages from Heidegger's philosophical text, Being and Time, became the impetus for what today may be referred to as the hermeneutic revolution in the social sciences. Now that phenomenology and hermeneutics are becoming accepted as viable alternatives to traditional scientific methodology, the relationship between them warrants closer scrutiny. The nature of this relationship suggests some answers to the questions raised in my introduction. The commonalties between these approaches are readily apparent: both are concerned with uncovering the meaning of experience and behaviour, both rely on experiential reports as research data, both acknowledge the dialogical relationship between researcher and subject, both suspend judgement on the factual content of the subjects' perceptions, and both believe that the natural attitude of pre-reflective engagement with the world needs to be modified into a rigorous, systematic, and methodical mode of enquiry.

However, it is the differences between these allied approaches, rather than the commonalties, that are of interest to me, and which have important implications for what we as qualitative researchers do - and understand ourselves to be doing - in pursuit of meaning. The central difference concerns the relationship between description and interpretation as related, but alternative, strategies for accessing meaning.

Qualitative research could be broadly classified according to whether it follows a descriptive or interpretive logic (Giorgi, 1992). In other words, the task of the researcher may either be phenomenological explication or hermeneutic interpretation. Phenomenological description, or explication, is defined as the process of "bracketing" one's presuppositions about the research phenomenon, and then explicitly describing "what presents itself precisely as it presents itself, neither adding nor subtracting from it" (Giorgi, 1992, p.121).

What makes this process descriptive, it is argued, is that the distorting influence of presupposition and theoretical imposition are avoided, firstly, through the preliminary strategy of identifying and isolating one's own existing beliefs and hypotheses concerning the phenomenon and, secondly, through the subsequent phase of rigorously describing how the phenomenon presents itself, without the distorting influence of theoretical language.

The descriptive approach attempts to remain faithful to the phenomenological reality of the subjects' experiential world, and operates within the "constraints of intuitive or presentational evidence" (Giorgi, 1992, p. 121). This means that both the reliability and validity of the descriptions can be established by checking them with other descriptive researchers and, ultimately, by showing the descriptions to the subjects, who can determine whether the descriptions reflect or distort their lived experience. The descriptive approach remains objective even though its data comprises subjective experience.

Giorgi thus contends that because description concerns "the clarification of the objects of experience precisely as experienced" (1992, p. 121), no interpretation occurs. Kafka's poetic assertion that the world unmasks itself before the quiet receptivity of an engaged onlooker, seems to square to with the phenomenological stance.

But does the world always unmask itself in the manner suggested? Given the pervasive influence of hermeneutic theory, together with the cultural impact of deconstruction and postmodernism, Giorgi's claims warrant critical examination.

Hermeneutics begins with the assumption that what makes revelatory understanding possible is the activity of interpretation, rather than description. Heidegger (1927/1962) defines interpretation as a "letting-something-be-seen", and goes on to say: "The entities of which one is talking must be taken out of their hiddenness; one must let them be seen as something unhidden (alethes); that is, they must be discovered" (p.278).

The importance of Heidegger's theory of interpretation was his radical claim that interpretation is not something we do, but that it is what we as human beings are. In other words, interpretation is our primordial mode of being-in-the-world, and only secondarily a reflective pursuit of knowledge.

Furthermore, given that we are fundamentally interpretive beings, and that our being-in-the-world is essentially historical, there can be no transcendental subjectivity or knowledge to underpin the contextual relativity of life-world experience. Understanding is typically grounded in the accessible, taken-for-granted lived meanings that behaviour and experience has for us, i.e., our pre-understandings. This experience and behaviour, in other words, has a pre-reflective intelligibility which is always historically situated in a socio-historical matrix of cultural significance. This intelligibility, the backdrop for all interpretation, has been referred to as practical understanding, one's "everyday participatory understanding of people and events" (Packer & Addison, 1989, p.23).

Interpretation, a fundamental condition of all human understanding, becomes foregrounded as a reflective, sense-making form of engagement only when there is a break-down of ordinary pre-reflective understanding, when some aspect of experience is rendered problematic by its resistance to common-sense assimilation. Research, in other words, begins when we start to find questions to our answers. It is only when some transparent aspect of reality becomes opaque, thereby resisting the established glance of tradition, that it becomes at all questionable. All or most of the words in the title of this paper are known and familiar to you, but perhaps on this occasion their specific juxtaposition resisted the familiar slide of your practised eye, resisted immediate assimilation. Whether teased, tantalised, or merely irritated, you found yourself arrested by the question of what this title could mean. This is always the occasion for interpretation, when some aspect of the mundane world eludes the casual glance.

The implication of all this is that because every descriptive act is located in a web of pre-understandings, Giorgi's distinction between description and interpretation is thus untenable. According to Giorgi interpretation involves the external attribution of meaning, rather than the description of meaning already implicit in the experience. However, if meaning is a discursive event, and both researchers and their subjects are historically located within a nexus of discursive pre-understandings, then no amount of reflective bracketing can neutralise these. To the unavoidable extent that these pre-understandings influence both the subjects' languaging of their experience, and the researchers' reflection upon this experience, pure description, i.e., description free of interpreted meaning, is impossible. Every description is always an interpretation, and consequently, may be interpreted in various ways.

Giorgi has a two-pronged rejoinder to this argument, based on the definition of interpretation as meaning attribution. Every interpretation involves a process of meaning attribution which, however plausible, is always contingent. This contingency inevitably results from invoking meaning which goes beyond people's self-descriptions of their lived experience. Because the only real criterion of a research description's validity is its necessary consistency with subjects' self-experience, any departure from subjects' self-descriptions means sacrificing the validity criterion of any statements about their experience. Consequently, an interpretation may be said to be plausible, but not true, since the criterion of truth no longer obtains. A corollary of this is that any number of other interpretations may be equally plausible. The second prong of Giorgi's rejoinder is the philosophical objection that if every description is already an interpretation, then this assertion must itself be an interpretation and, in the light of the previous argument, not necessarily true.

A pragmatic way out of this philosophical debate is to consider description and interpretation, not as opposing modalities of apprehending meaning, but rather as polarities of a single continuum of 'sense-making' engagement with a phenomenon. From this perspective the distinction between description and interpretation is the extent to which researcher presuppositions and hypotheses are intentionally bracketed, subjects' consciously intended meanings adhered to, and their analysed experience articulated in research language that deliberately avoids theoretical terminology. To the extent that presuppositions are bracketed, that subjects' consciously intended meanings are faithfully adhered to, and that these clarified meanings are conveyed in deliberately atheoretical language, the approach may be termed descriptive. Conversely, to the extent that hypotheses are self-reflectively employed to approach the phenomenon, that meanings beyond those consciously intended by subjects are pursued, and that these meanings are conveyed using theoretical language, we may identify the research approach as interpretive. These two research approaches may thus be understood as part of one continuum of sense-making activity, merging into each other, becoming less polarised and easily identified as the three distinguishing criteria become less rigorously employed.

The descriptive-phenomenological approach has certain advantages concerning the issues of objectivity and validity. Objectivity, from this perspective, is defined as fidelity to the phenomenon as it is subjectively experienced by research subjects. Consequently, by consciously suspending one's presuppositions and hypotheses, clarifying only consciously intended meaning, and eschewing theoretical language, a high degree of objectivity may be observed and critically assessed by referring the clarified essential meanings back to the subjects and/or other phenomenological researchers for adjudication. This objectivity is necessarily compromised with interpretive research because of the essential nature of interpretation.

Interpretations depart from the intuitive or presentational evidence of the subjects' experience. The consequence of this is, firstly, that the descriptive criterion of objectivity (whether the subjects' themselves accept the clarified meanings) is sacrificed and, secondly, without an objective criterion of correctness or accuracy it becomes difficult to determine which of two or more interpretations is the better one. If one accepts this formulation, then the important issue becomes the question of when, and under what circumstances, a qualitative researcher is justified in going beyond a descriptive approach by interpreting meaning that cannot be verified by appeal to the subjects' conscious self-descriptions. Sometimes a descriptive approach is clearly sufficient, rendering any further meaning attribution unnecessary. For example, while conducting a qualitative investigation of the meaning of male paedophiles' sexual interaction with children, I was struck by one subject's statement: "I never came out of the cocoon my mother had spun for me, she was too overprotective. Whenever I like a girl I would always see my mother in her and it would feel like a mother-child relationship".

A phenomenological description of this statement might be as follows:

The subject's initial attraction to sexually mature women is blocked by his perception that they embody his overprotective mother, thereby transforming adult sexual interaction into a discomforting incestuous re-enactment of a mother-child relationship.

Compare this to a classical psychoanalytic interpretation:

The phallically fixated subject, unable to resolve his genital wishes for his mother, unconsciously displaces his oedipal impulses onto attractive adult women, thereby projecting onto them the forbidden maternal imago, consequently resulting in castration anxiety and subsequent defensive libidinal de-cathexis of the adult sexual object.

This interpretation is problematic in at least three respects: Firstly, I doubt whether the psychoanalytic interpretation is any more illuminating than the phenomenological description. Secondly, the theoretical language of the psychoanalytic interpretation, with its implicit assumptions, does seem to alienate one from the experiential texture and quality of the original description. Thirdly, while I could imagine this subject confirming the phenomenological description, I very much doubt whether he would be able to comprehend, let alone accept, the psychoanalytic interpretation.

Certain research phenomena lend themselves more than others to either descriptive or hermeneutic methodologies. Those meanings readily accessible to conscious self-reflection are obviously open to descriptive approaches, whereas those cases in which self-reflection is distorted by defensive psychic or ideological strategies require methods that go substantially beyond subjects' conscious self-descriptions. In Paul Ricoeur's words: "to seek meaning is no longer to spell out the consciousness of meaning, but to decipher its expressions" (In Clarke, 1990, p. 62). These oblique expressions thus require oblique methods capable of excavating hidden meaning. Giorgi anticipates this criticism and contends that the unconscious does not pose a problem to descriptive phenomenology for two reasons: firstly, because the data are "not limited to the consciousness of the experiencer but to whoever's consciousness grasps the phenomenon" (1992, p.127), and secondly, because the search for indirect meaning is a therapeutic, rather than a research task.

The first point is that the researcher may consciously perceive and describe meanings that are not consciously perceived by the research subjects. This raises a number of problems for descriptive phenomenology, but perhaps the most difficult is that its primary criterion of validation - the intuitive affirmation of the subjects - no longer applies when it is acknowledged that the researcher has access to meanings which are not accessible to the consciousness of the subjects. This compromises the very factor which Giorgi contends guarantees descriptive phenomenology its objectivity, and thus places the descriptive researcher in the same predicament as the hermeneutic researcher.

The second point, that divining unconscious meaning is appropriate to the therapeutic, but not the research context, is mistaken. Description is not always adequate to the task of comprehending a phenomenon's meaning. For example, in researching individuals' experience of satanic cult involvement, most subjects gave detailed accounts of seeing and being possessed by demons. A general phenomenological description of this would be as follows:

Having subscribed to the mythological belief in demonic entities, and having committed themselves to cultivating the powers and attributes of these demonic forces, Satanists literally perceive these supernatural entities, and experience them as alien internal presences. Now, while this description remains true to the subjects experience of demons and demonic possession, it remains unsatisfying because the psychological nature, status, and origin of the demonic entities is not addressed. In my study all the subjects assumed the literal reality of supernatural demonic entities, and interpreted their experience as the intrusion of demonic forces. The subjective reality of this experience could, of course, be respected in trying to understand the meaning of demonic possession. However, a faithful description of this experience, though adequate to the subject's phenomenological reality, must remain psychologically unsatisfactory because the question of what demons are at a psychological level has not been addressed. Unless demonic possession can rendered psychologically meaningful, i.e., by understanding it in natural rather than supernatural terms, we cannot make any significant sense of it. However, we can only make psychological sense of it by interpreting the taken-for-granted experiential reality of possessing supernatural entities sent by Satan.

If one substitutes an object relations psychoanalytic interpretation for the phenomenological description, one arrives at the following:

Demons are dissociated manifestations of destructive self representations, derived from childhood identifications with bad internalized parental figures which, when split off from the central self structure, function as autonomous subpersonalities. The defensive externalisation of these alienated subpersonalities leaves the individual vulnerable to their fantasised intrusive return as personified supernatural entities, capable of taking over and controlling the central personality.

This interpretation clearly departs from satanic subjects' self-descriptions, and would never be accepted by these subjects, who emphatically believe in the literal reality of demons as supernatural entities. What is satisfying about the interpretation, however, is that it makes psychological sense out of supernatural experience, identifies the origin of demonic experience, and explains the unconscious process whereby aspects of the personality come to be experienced as alien entities.

The fact that it is one interpretation among many possible others does not, I believe, weaken its power to illuminate the phenomenon. Intuitive validation of a research account by the subject is merely one criterion of the interpretation's appropriateness. From the hermeneutic perspective psychological research is not concerned with the essential truth of a phenomenon but, as Keneth Gergen says, with crafting systems of intelligibility (Gergen, 1989, p.257).

There are multiple discourses and multiple interpretive communities, and hence any interpretation may be contested by someone located within another 'sense-making' discursive vantage point. For example, within a fundamentalist Christian discourse Satan is a real supernatural intelligence who possesses the unwary, from a constructionist perspective Satan is an ideological construct whose imaginary existence serves a cohesive sociological function in times of secular social change; and within a psychoanalytic discourse Satan is a split-off part of the individual's own instinctual life or internal world. One cannot ask which of these interpretations is the correct one because each procedes from a fundamentally different discursive fore-structure of interpretive assumptions. This does not mean, however, that one interpretation is as plausible as another. Giorgi overlooks the fact that a number of hermeneutic theorists have developed criteria for adjudicating contending interpretations. There is not time to examine these; suffice it to say, however, that a hermeneutic stance need not be a relativistic one.

I hope that this paper has gone some way to reconciling two qualitative research traditions, which Giorgi has sought to polarise. I do not find it useful to dichotomise phenomenology and hermeneutics, and then argue for the superiority of one over the other. My definition of qualitative research as a sense-making continuum between predominantly descriptive or interpretive approaches means that the important issue now becomes where one locates oneself on this continuum, and being able to justify this location in terms of the phenomenon one seeks to illuminate.


Clark, S. (1990) Paul Ricoeur. London: Routledge.

Gergen, K. (1989) The possibility of psychological knowledge: a hermeneutic inquiry. In M. Packer & R. Addison (Eds.) Entering the Circle: Hermeneutic Investigation in Psychology, pp 239-258. New York: State University of New York Press.

Giorgi, A. (1992) Description versus interpretation: competing alternative strategies for qualitative research. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 23, No.2, p.119-135.

Heidegger, M. (1962) Being and Time. New York: Harper and Row.

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THE POLITIC OF THE body (in the motion of the ocean)

Vasi van Deventer

Department of Psychology, University of South Africa

In the stormy seas of politics bodies are tossed about. Everywhere we hear their cries: save my female body, recognise my gay body, appreciate my black body, don't taint my white body - please acknowledge my minor(ity) body! Sometimes the latter half of this century seems to be nothing but the echoes of these screams. But of course the opposite is also true: it is the motions of these bodies that stir the waters on. There are those who would say that bodies are driven into motion by their fear of destruction. They would argue that some or other political wave is always ready to crash and disintegrate the body. But I would like to suggest that these bodies are not all that innocent. Being a victim, being angry, having a history to exhaust, does not mean that one is naively delivered to politics. We all have a politic of our own. Politics, the game of appropriation and exclusion, is very much the way the body constitutes itself - an egotistical celebration of the body, an embodied ego. At the very moment the body finds itself being tossed about in the high seas of politics it is already a surfer's body gracefully riding the waves in a celebrated constitution of itself.

We usually think of the body politic as bodies subjected to politics. But this paper investigates the notion that bodies have a politic of their own. Entities, be that physical bodies, ego's, or bodies of knowledge, are constituted via processes of identification. I use Lacan's mirror stage theory, modified by Derrida's notion of differance, to illustrate how identification is realised through appropriation and exclusion. These processes are situated in a metaphorical seascape where waves are constituted by politcal motions of self-appropriaton, ebbing the ability to respond to the other. When a body emerges in these waters it finds itself in a political domain. But it never succeeds to clear the water surface; the body never appears in full. It fights an endless battle to stay afloat. The final moment of complete(d) appropriation is constantly deferred. The waves that pound the body, those political waves the body is subjected to, are always already the manifestations of the coming into being of the body - truely a politics of the body, and a politics driven by the fear of drowning, the fear of going under in the deconstruction of an identity built on self-appropriation. I conclude with a few concrete examples to demonstrate the dynamics of this exclusive body politic.

The body politic: a body and a politic, a double name, a simulacrum that splits in two, into bodies belonging to politics, and politics belonging to bodies. The first side of this double-sided body politic we know all too well. The politics that bodies belong to, is a politics of recognition (Taylor, 1994, pp. 25-73), and these movements have become the slogans of our times. We hear them on a daily basis: save my female body, recognise my gay body, appreciate my black body, do not taint my white body, acknowledge my minor(ity) body. But the other side of the body politic is less often the object of attention, perhaps because it challenges our innocence. It rejects the notion that we are merely the victims of a raging politic, and it does so by subjecting politics to the body. It suggests a politic of the body where the body is not a simple given, where its coming into being calls for a constitution that is always already political.

Let's chart a seascape to navigate these waters. It is easy enough to image bodies being tossed about in the stormy seas of politics, but it is a little more difficult to imagine these bodies being responsible for the motion of the political ocean. If in the first instance bodies are simply presupposed, the second scenario is about the surfacing of these bodies. Somehow they have surfaced and managed to stay afloat before those political waves start catching up with them. It is this side of the double sided body politic that I want to explore in this paper.

Here is a picture of our seascape:

We see a wavelike motion between two domains, namely the domain of politics and the domain of ethics. The political domain is overt. It is in full sight, on the surface of the sea. Below the surface lies the ethical domain. It is hidden from our view, but it forms a strong undercurrent in the motion of this ocean. The question we must deal with here, concerns the constitution of the wave itself. My point of departure is that politics is a power game and a game of appropriation. And I go on to suggest that the game of appropriation is based on a forgetting. It is based on a forgetting of the ethical. Without going into detail, we will simply accept that It is this forgetting, that it is a politics constituted in and through a forgetting of the ethical, that causes the waves. I will use this notion to suggest that these waves are the manifestation of the surfacing of the body. In other words, that bodies are constituted in and through the wavelike play of politics and ethics. In particular we will see how the being of the body requires the exclusion of the other and a denial of responsibility.

The route we take is quite simple: We start with Lacanian reflection to gain an understanding of the meaning of constitution via appropriation and exclusion. We then go on to Derridean differance to obtain a deconstructed version of the ego/identity/body. And finally we look at some examples demonstrating the dynamics of a constitution based on exclusion.


According to Lacan's mirror stage theory (1977, pp 1-7) the child, at age six months, discovers itself in its image in the mirror. At this age the child is outdone by the chimpanzee in instrumental intelligence, but unlike the animal, it does not quickly exhaust the image and lose interest in it. In its play the child experiences the relation between the movements assumed in the image and the reality it duplicates, namely the child's body, a body which at that young stage is an ensemble of uncoordinated and turbulent movements, a body in bits and pieces, a corps morcèlé. In recognising the mirror image as itself, the child sees what it will have become. It sees itself as a coordinated whole.

Here is a picture of Lacanian reflection:

The vertical line in the middle, suggests the mirror. On the left we have the corps morcèlé, and on the right the body as a coordinated whole. For Lacan the ego comes into being in and through these projections and retrojections - the reflections from source to image and from image to source

The mirror stage is marked by difference (the child looks at the other to see itself) and deferring (the child sees what it will have become), but these notions carry the promise (for the child) of properly becoming its own - of becoming its own property. Thus a certain appropriation will take place. But we must proceed with caution here, because the appropriation, which results in the Lacanian ego, requires a deconstruction, as we shall see. We must look carefully at the notions of difference and deferring. These notions are the core ideas of Derridean differance. So let's leave the mirror stage theory for a while, and investigate Derrida's notion of differance, before we return to consider the imports of Derridian differance on the mirror stage theory.


Differance is a neologism in which Derrida attempts to combine difference and deferring. Differance deals with the simultaneity of distinctions (to differ) and postponements (to defer). It is neither passive nor active. It does not have an agent, neither does it function as an agent in itself. If we struggle to understand differance, we should not be surprised, because we cannot fathom the simultaneity of spatial and temporal operations. We always need a double reading of differance to form some idea of its meaning.

To my mind the following is a core definition of differance.: Differance is what makes the movement of signification possible only if each element that is said to be "present", appearing on the stage of presence, is related to something other than itself but retains the mark of a past element and already lets itself be hollowed out by the mark of its relation to a future element. This trace relates no less of what is called the future than to what is called the past, and it constitutes what is called the present by this very relation to what it is not, to what it absolutely is not; that is, not even to a past or future considered as a modified present (Derrida, 1973, pp 142-143).

Now, let's attempt a double reading - let's read this twice and see what we manage to come up with. I add my visual impression of these ideas, but treat them with care. They function like metaphors, typically obscuring as much as they reveal.

Differance is what makes the movement of signification possible only if each element that is said to be "present", appearing on the stage of presence, is related to something other than itself but retains the mark of a past element and already lets itself be hollowed out by the mark of its relation to a future element ......

In other words, we begin by presupposing a body/identity/consciousness that returns to itself (that is reflected in the mirror, if you wish). But the point is that the "returning" onto itself, is not a collapsing into itself. There is always difference in self-reflection, and this holds true for the moment of self-consciousness. The moment of self-awareness is a doubling up, a moment of being aware of oneself (of one's self). Thus self-consciousness harbours an interval that divides self-consciousness in itself, an interval that opens self-consciousness to what is other to self-consciousness.

This trace relates no less to what is called the future than to what is called the past, and it constitutes what is called the present by this very relation to what it is not, to what it absolutely is not; that is, not even to a past or future considered as a modified present.

Now we begin with the interval that divides self-consciousness in itself. The interval that invests the moment of self-consciousness is related no less to what is called the "source" of self-consciousness than to what is called the "image" of self-consciousness, and it constitutes itself by this very relation to what it absolutely is not, that is neither a preceding nor a resulting consciousness. Thus the other, which invests every moment of self-consciousness, precedes, and is constitutive of, the moment of self-consciousness.

This double reading points to the incomprehensibility of differance: At the very moment the ego is constituted in an appropriation of self, it is always already also constituted in and through what is other to the ego. In more general terms, what Derrida suggests is that fundamental reality takes the form of the trace. In doing so he deconstructs singularities. He denies single moments of presence, which means the present cannot be narrowed down to a singular moment, and singular moments are not simply present. Whatever is present, whatever appears on the stage of presence, is always already double. It always already involves a difference and a deferring. And this is only half the picture, because at the very moment we speak of things being differed and deferred from themselves, these things are brought into existence in and through these processes of difference and deferring. And, as we have seen, moments of self-consciousness are not excluded. In the moment of self-consciousness one returns to oneself to be oneself in one's own presence. But this moment of absolute and united presence to oneself is always already a moment of difference and deferring. One cannot gather oneself to be oneself in one's own presence without the possibility of the intrusion of an other. One is always already differed and deferred from oneself even when one believes oneself to be a singularity.


The mirror stage theory captures differance in a single reading, provided we do not forget the lessons taught in the double reading, especially that the mirror stage promise of becoming properly my own can never be more than a promise.

To begin with, here is a (single reading) picture of differance:

This picture depicts the relationship of an inside with its outside. Keep in mind the mirror stage theory where the corps morcèlé sees itself as a unified whole. However such a relationship requires the maintenance of difference and deferring. It requires a doubling up. It forbids the dissolving of source and image into a singular ego, which always involves the appropriation of the image by its source, or vice versa.

Differance forbids appropriation, and thus maintains the promise of appropriation, and thereby the structure of desire. Lacan, on the other hand, awaits an ego that comes into being in and through projective and retrojective appropriation, a power play, a political domain. The ego requires an absolute forgetting of the ethical. It finds itself afloat in a sea of politics.

But the import of differance paints a slightly different picture. The ego which lives by the promise of appropriation and which takes its form from desire (Kamuf, 1991, p. 461; Spivak, 1976, p. lxxviii), is an ego which exists by virtue of its own impossibility. This is the deconstructed ego. It can never be a fulfilled state, nor a state of fulfilment. The condition of the ego is the relationship of selfconsciousness to what is absolutely other to itself. Elsewhere I have indicated that this relationship is what we experience as the I (van Deventer, 1994, pp. cxlv-cliv). Thus the deconstructed ego appears as the I.

To return to our initial seascape: In and through desire the ego attempts to constitute itself by excluding the relatedness to the other - and ethics is the victim. An entire philosophy pivots on this point (see e.g. Critchley, 1992), but let's simply say that ethics requires the ability to respond. The egoistic desire for appropriation attempts to exorcise the opening onto the other. Quite literally it reduces the ability to respond - a diminished responsibility. When the other is excluded I am responsible to no one. The ego's desire for appropriation initiates a play of power whereby it seeks to exclude the other in order to dissolve the doubleness into a singular identity. And it must seek to avoid this doubleness, it must wish for appropriation, because the moment of the absolute double, is a moment of absolute undecidability, and this sets off an uncontrollable anxiety (Gallop, 1985, p. 63). The desire of appropriation, and thus an entire politic, is fuelled by these moments of anxiety. But as we have seen, the process of appropriation can never succeed in full, and hence the wavelike motion in the political-ethical ocean - waves that are the manifestations of the endless movements of deferred egoistic appropriations.

Let's turn now to two examples to demonstrate the dynamics of indentity formation. The first example has to do with the constitution of personal identity via exclusion and the fending off of anxiety. The second example is more abstract, and concerns the constitution of the individual as a scientific object.


It does not take a genius to see Apartheid as the constitution of white identity founded on black exclusion. Its institutionalised racism rubbed off deeply on all factions of the population, and in post-apartheid society race still plays a major role, probably to such an extent that it can be considered a psychological dimension in the constitution of our identities (Carter, 1995, pp. 71-84). The following is an example (actually a series of four events) of black identity formation founded in exclusion, and the anxiety associated with the deconstruction of the ego. It is not an attempt to critique black identity formation. The point is not that white identity is not constituted in similar ways - all identity formations are based on appropriation and exclusion and are thus political in nature. The potency of identifying exclusion in black identity formation lies in the underlying paradox: These black students who constitute their identities through exclusion have been involved in the struggle against Apartheid, a struggle against identity formation based on exclusion.

Here are the four events that occured in a class of mainly black students:

1. When asked to close their eyes and picture a "man from Africa" the class without exception imagined a black man. When challenged that there are also white people in Africa, the class rejected the Africanness of white people.

Stereotyping plays a major role in identifying a black man with Africa, and one may well ask whether this is an example of identity founded in exclusion. Indeed, exclusion does not lie in the postive identification of Africa with black people, but it does manifest itself at the root of the matter. Whites are not identified as a minority incidence of African people. Their Africanness is denied. They are excluded from Africa, and it is this exclusion that enables the blackness of the "man from Africa". Here we have the danger of any stereotype: Its positive constitution of identity is a masquerade, because the moment of exclusion has already been hidden. It turns a blind eye towards its own politics (it creates an imaginary picture in a closed-eye view). The moment of the ethical has already been forgotten, and with it goes responsibility.

2. When the lecturer introduced the topic of racism in his class he was deemed unfit to do so by virtue of the fact that he is a white person.

Although this position is not as blatantly racist as it seems - the point of view of many black people is simply that only the oppressed can make a meaningful contribution to the discourse on racism, and whites are not identitied as oppressed - it is obviously exclusive. The discourse on racism, which serves to constitute white and black, is appropriated via exclusion. The movement is subtle, yet powerful: the wrongs of the past (a denial of the ethical) is used to deny the ethical and to set up a repetitive cycle/wave of the same old politic.

3. When the same class later evaluated the course, a student remarked that the lecturer did not have the guts to show his racism.

In this remark we see the traces of anxiety caused by the deconstruction of the ego. When the lecturer did not appear a racist, the student nevertheless found it necessary to endow him with this quality. She presupposed the racism of her white lecturer, and when it was not displayed she envoked it. In the discourse on racism she needed the white person to be a racist, and she felt frustrated when he did not act accordingly (she felt he did not have the guts). In psychoanalytic terms: one recognises a defensive projection. An ego constituted via racism becomes threatened when faced with the possibility of non-racism.

4. When the postmodern notion of the plurality of voices, especially the legitimacy of the suppressed voice, was discussed, a student remarked: How do I know this is not just another colonisation of my mind?

In this case the anxiety associated with the deconstructed ego is expressed fairly openly. The student is faced with a discourse that advocates the legitimacy of her voice, but it confronts her with an immense responsibility. Henceforth she must speak in a voice that is not merely a voice of protest. She must find her own voice, and she must find it among many other voices, all equally legitmate. She must find herself by including, and not by excluding, the other. In other words, she must find herself as I, in and through the relationship with the other.


The following example comes from an honours student's research proposal. Students were asked to keep a diary and to extract a theme that runs through the daily entries. They were then to formulate research questions based on these themes. What makes this example interesting is that it clearly demonstrates the subjection of the subject in the name of science, and that this takes place in a proposal that itself deals with overpowering and submissive interpersonal relationships.

Here is the student's diary theme:

There are those people that constantly try to overpower other people, and then there are those people who play the submissive role in life. Those that are in the submissive position have the desire to somehow find a way to make themselves be heard in circumstances, to assert themselves, and to find a way to come into being.

She then formulated the following research question:

What sort of behavior do people engage into in order to deal with difficult and/or uncomfortable situations in their lives?

The following are a few snippets taken from the section where she describes her methodology:

..... unit of analysis will be the individual .....

Participants will be presented with questionnaires....

They will be asked to imagine themselves in situations .....

An outsider will be aksed to confront the participant with uncomfortable and personal questions.

No direct questions will be asked regarding a person's personal feelings ....

Exclusion and distanciation are at work throughout this excercise. The (scientific?) value of objectivity organises every move of this investigation. An object of research is constituted at all costs. The interpersonal relationship is omitted to limit the unit of analysis to the individual, and the boudaries that are drawn in constituting this individual are not to be transgressed (no direct questions will be asked regarding the person's inner feelings). The monadic nature of these individuals is heightened by shifting their interactions to an imaginary realm (they will be asked to imagine themselves in situations ... ), prohibiting any real contact. The final isolation of the subject, a final objectivication, comes with the total withdrawal of the researcher. The researcher changes into an outsider, prodding the object with uncomfortable questions.

Is what we see here not in itself a power play? The isolation of the individual, the denial of its feelings, the constant watch of the foreign, distant eye: do these not add up to a brutal torturing of the subject? Does science leave this individual any chance to experience itself via its connectednes to the other? In objective science the moment of exclusion gains a postive value. It becomes ethical to forget the ethical, and to set those political waves in motion. But this is, as the present example shows, the very moment of our coming into being. The eye of the other, becomes the eye of the outsider. Responsibility, the ability to respond to the other, is shed. We draw our boundaries to contain our personal feelings, and to withstand the prodding of the other. And in doing so we aim to be the celebrated body of the surfer, gacefully riding those politcal waves, whilest forgeting that the waves we ride are the waves of an egoistic appropriaton.


Carter, R.T. (1995). The influence of race and racial identity in Psychotherapy: Toward a racially inclusive model. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Critchley, S. (1992). The ethics of deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas. Oxford: Blackwell.

Derrida, J. (1973). Speech and Phenomena and other essays on Husserl's theory of signs. (Translation D. Allison). Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Gallop, J. (1985). Reading Lacan. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Kamuf, P. (1991). A Derrida Reader: Between the blinds. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lacan, J. (1977). Ecrits: A selection. (Translation A. Sheridan). London: Tavistock Publications.

Spivak, G.C. (1976). Translator's preface. In J Derrida. Of Grammatology. (Translation G.C. Spivak). Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Taylor, C. (1994). The politics of recognition. In A Gutmann (Ed.). Multiculturalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Van Deventer, S.H. (1994). Die menslike wetenskap: 'n Verhaal vir die Sielkunde. Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of South Africa, Pretoria.

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Department of Psychology

University of South Africa

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The body impolitic of silence

HC van Rensburg

University of Namibia

The postmodern considerations of enfoldedness in language, conceive of the speaking subject (Kristeva, 1989) as divided against himself against himself. More specifically, the speaking subject is a "split" entity, as Lacan (1977) states, "comes to grief" as he lodges his thought and speaks in the folds of language. This means that the speaking subject is an alienated entity as he subjects himself to the politics of signification that happens behind his back. Nevertheless, the speaking subject is trapped in the gears of language (Lacan, 1985), and the gears only inscribe a "rot" within the speaking subject as he lives by the negativity of his discourse (internalisation project of psychology), but also enslave him to his own alienation as a "split" entity. In the light of this "brutalisation" of the subject by his own discourse, it is fair to say that "silence might be golden", because the speaking subject is not "overdetermined" in his discourse, and the possibility of "healing" is in order for the "silent" subject. However, the politicising of "silence" amounts to the further brutalisation of the subject, as the politics of "silence" pertain to the "healing of the other". This paper will explore this tension between the "healing aspect of silence", and the reverse of the "healing aspect of silence" for the sake of the healing of the "other" in the folds of language.


"Silence" currently is a very contentious "noise", and the aim of this paper is to articulate different "species" of silence in the symbolic order, and the empowerment of those who hold the discourse of "silence". The focus of the paper is on the body impolitic of "silence" and how the speaking subject is "silenced" in the self-authentification of identity formation. This paper will argue that the struggle for power is the struggle for the discourse of "silence", and how the alienated body is the basis for articulating "silence".

As Derrida (1989; 1995) and also Nietzsche (in Kristeva, 1982) indicate, symbolically, that religion, and more notably Christianity, symbolically engaged her followers and other institutions in a struggle for the discourse of "silence" in the paradoxical demand for confession. It is in "silence" that the subject can nourish the secret or the passion of his non-being. Derrida (1995: 27) states that "the secret is in speech which is foreign to speech.", and that the impolitic of silence is to sustain that which is foreign and de-posed. The practices of confession, is to sustain that which is foreign to speech when the speaking subject articulates a "bourgeois consciousness" which is a displacement of consciousness from itself, and the speaking subject is self-reflexive insofar as he doubles up in misrecognition and re-misrecognition. Nevertheless, the emphasis here is that the "practice of silence", invariably leads to the internalisation of "rot", while the act of speaking, or the confession is to lie in order to retain the passion for that which is the prohibition, and to sustain the secret of that which is "not it" (Freudian "ich"), namely the self. In Nietzschean parlance, it can be said that Christianity has fine tuned "silence" for her own empowerment as a universal body. Nietzsche says about Christianity (in Kristeva, 1982): "To breed out of mankind a self-contradiction, an art of self-defilement, a will to lie at any cost, a revulsion, a scorn for all good and upright instincts! [...] call Christianity [...] the immortal defiling of mankind." In the light this and the religiosity that goes with "silence", I will now focus specifically on the impolitic of "silence", the symbolic symbioses between the speaking subject and the other in the various practices of inclusion and exclusion in communication. This is of particular importance for Psychology and psychotherapy, because what is staged in Psychology is the "privilege of absence", which Lyotard (in Bennington, 1988) might refer to as "Exteriority", "Zero", "Other" and "Signifier", and which is therefore fundamentally religious for the psychological experience of unity and mastery.

In communication the speaking subject is self-orientated in his discourse, and to this effect can claim self-reflexivity. However, more than the Freudian doctrine that the unconscious is the discourse of the other (Lacan: "unconscious is structured like a language"), I want to add (maybe insist) that "normative consciousness is also the discourse of the other". Normative consciousness demands of the speaking subject an intersubjectivity which is nothing more than a "repression" of the subject in an identification with otherness as he adheres to the repressive morphemes of a bourgeois consciousness. This means that the conscious, self-reflexive subject is an authentic entity as he adheres to bourgeois demands for self-cultivation in the posing of the repressed, but at the same time is an alienated entity in the courtliness of his self-confessions and what is expressed. O'Niell (1983) articulates the alienation of the congenial subject who adheres to the courtliness of a bourgeois consciousness in terms of the body politic of the aristocracy; first of all to preserve the manner of the aristocracy from debasement while teaching those who acquire it to appear to have possessed it, and to encourage a literature of "self-fashioning". Moreover, to flee from the intersubjectivity of conversation, that is to be "silent" in not confessing the prohibition, is to confess baseness and an inability to withstand judgement of one's peers who accept such rivalry. On the other hand, to engage in conversation amounts to a healing and empowering of the other in the sense that what is expressed is the repressed in the production of the prohibition, and in this regard the subject is "silenced" pertaining the "proper" thrust of language which puts the other and the aristocracy on trial. This "contractuality" between the repressed and the expressed is important to articulate the self-dressage of the culturally authenticated speaking subject, because, as Lacan (1977) reminds us, it is the "repressed which insists", and if the prohibition is repressed, it will also insist and ultimately be expressed in the practice and poetics of transgression. Nevertheless, the self-alienation of the speaking subject as he adheres to the intersubjective demand for self-reflexivity and the repressive morphemes of a bourgeois consciousness amounts to the displacement of consciousness from itself in a politic of an objectified and alienated body. (Consider here Nietzsche's double inscription for consciousness, recognition and articulation). Considered on the whole, the paradoxical trap of the speaking subject in conversation, not only amounts to acting into the unknown as the subject confess the prohibition, but also amounts to the "silencing" of the speaking subject, something Freud recognised with the imperative "wo es war, soll ich werden". Thus, adhering to normative consciousness, that is to speak a bourgeois hysteria for the clean and proper, is to "silence" the speaking subject for the "cure" of a foreign consciousness, and to lay the "foundations" of the speaking subject bare insofar as he is "making sense".

Having said that, this paper can now focus on a "different" conception of the "body impolitics of 'silence'". As has been suggested, this bodiliness refers to the exclusive body of bourgeois consciousness in a hysteria for the "proper" as the new realm to which the mind is banished in the making of local knowledges. This paper will refer to experiential knowledge and the creative knowledge which is based on an alienated body as "thinking with the pigs", and the various practices of "silence" as de-posing of subjectivity and the confession of an inward "rot" which is masked in the folds of discourse.

First of all, there is the "silence" that goes with the demand of discourse to "conform". This form of "silence" can be recognised in psychology in its modern scientific project, and the vulgar objectification of its subject in the various practices of self-confession.

Secondly, in a more mystical sense, there is the "silence" that goes with the practices of "central neutrality" where the "feeling" subject caresses itself. This form of "silence" can be recognised as the postmodern condition of man, where subjectivity comes to be recognised or misrecognised in what is simultaneously posed and de-posed.

Thirdly, "silence", that is silent in the sense of not speaking, symbolically comes to mean that the subject is either "going with the flow", or the subject is orientated in the "proper" thrust of language rather than the "common sense" of a bourgeois consciousness which brings inertia to the "proper" thrust of language - an inertia which is mistaken to be the sense of his discourse, and comes about in the confession of the prohibition in the name of Humanism. In the latter instance, it can be said that "common sense" has lost its positive reinforcement qualities for the speaking subject, and psychologically, depression and repression have lifted for the subject, and at last the subject stands to be recognised as thoroughly other. However, for his audience, the "silence" of not confessing the prohibition, makes him an unbearable monstrosity because he reminds them, of course unbeknownst to themselves, of their own condition of agony, and to this effect risks being labelled "mad".

With regard to the politics of "conformity", the subject conforms to a bourgeois hysteria for social hygiene by perpetually remaining excluded from himself. This means that the authenticated subject conforms with the misrecognitions of the dominant discourses so that he perpetually is excluded from all foundations for the maximisation of symbolic capital and the accrual of symbolic power that go with the "certainty" discourse provides. It can be said that the authenticated subject is a "silenced", docile body as he speaks "meaningfully" into the "noise" of dominant discourses while being ascertained in his identity by a "sensuous certainty" of a knowledge which has its foundation in a bourgeois hysteria for the "proper", and is a converse of "proper knowledge". It is in this sense that the speaking subject is symbolically ready for the "market place" and is "credit/credo worthy" insofar as he asserts phallically: "I am a we". Thus, in the politics of "conforming" the speaking subject adheres to a bourgeois sense of the proper from which paradoxically, he remains perpetually excluded in the practices of confession. More than this, the speaking subject is not only "split" by conforming and speaking into dominant "noise", but is also "silenced" by the repressive morphemes of bourgeois consciousness. Symbolically therefore, an authentic speaking subject is the one who has been "silenced" as he speaks into the "noise" of dominant discourses, or speaks to turn up the "noise" of dominant discourse, and is therefore silenced paradoxically in his being towards otherness. In Freudian parlance therefore, this paper is suggesting that the "Bejahung" of the speaking subject in dominant discourse by a hysterical other, is nothing more than an elegant "silencing" of the self-reflexive or self-conscious speaking subject.

Kristeva (1987; 1982) articulates the religiosity of "silence", when she points out that "silence" does not amount to a slack boredom of repression, not transformations and translations of desire that wrench bodies, nights and discourse, but rather a brutish suffering that "I" puts up with, sublime and devastated, for "I" deposit it to the father's account (pere-version): I endure it, for I imagine that such is the desire of the other. Kristeva (1982) goes on to articulate the "sacrifice" in "silence", what I will call the thrust of upward sublimation in repression and identification, which, is the self-exclusion for the sake of a bourgeois hysteria as "I expel myself, I split myself out, I abject myself within the same motion through which "I" claim to establish myself." However, this thrust of what I call upward sublimation, is the whole practice of internalisation of "rot" that can be found in the various social practices of "silence". Thus on the one hand, the "silencing" that comes with speaking into the "noise" of dominant discourses, that is with the practices of "conformation", amounts to an erotic brutalisation of the speaking subject to be endured for the desire of the other, while the stake holders in various institutions or discourses of "silence" are empowered by the confessions of the authentic speaking subject.

This brings me to the second mode of "silencing" and empowerment of the speaking subject, namely the politics of a "central neutrality" of the religious liberals which manifests in the "neither, nor" self-positioning in history/discourse which, in its positivity, is at once symbolically all embracing and all rejecting. The religiosity of this mode of "silencing" pertains symbolically to man's desire for playing on bigger fields, and the unifying strategies which are simultaneously all embracing and all rejecting, symbolically amounts to a paradoxical inability to hear or listen to the resistance of the other. This means that an exclusive "we" is presented as "matter of fact" where the subject once again adheres to a bourgeois hysteria which now "includes" the speaking subject and answers to human rights in the absolutizing of the speaking subject (Mineau, 1989). The bourgeois hysteria manifests in an obsession with an interspace as boundary which is simultaneously all embracing and all rejecting, and symbolically demands the theatre of cross-hybridization, the carnevalesque according to Bakthin (Stallybrass & White, 1986). Derrida (1989) refers to an obsession with "not mixing genre" and the repressed, and a subsequent genre clause which amounts to the staging of the repressed and a cross-hybridization of the mobile subject in the folds of language. Again the subject is repressed in a bourgeois uneasiness with its "low" body, and is therefore participating in his own spectacle on a distance (his balcony scene). In this regard, as Stallybrass and White (1986) indicate, the "central neutrality" that comes to the fore in the "neither nor" self-positioning demands a certain extraterritoriality from official order and official ideology, neither capitalism, nor Marxism. The suggestion here is that the "silencing" of the speaking subject that comes with "central neutrality" symbolically demands of the speaking subject a "memory" of the "rotten" and "tortured" body in its objectification. I am suggesting that this "silencing" of the speaking subject amounts to "misrecognition without naming" by which the demarcating imperatives that divide humans and pigs, mind and body, and the logic of excluding filth are internalised with that what it excludes.

Not only is the pig the symbol of comedy, but as Stallybrass and White (1986) point out, the pig, or "porcus", or "porcellus" as it is known in Latin is also the symbols to describe female genitalia or the banished body, and "demands" and "commands" imagination as Derrida (1989) suggests. As was the case in the sixteenth century, "pig" was used not only to mock the police and fascists, but also came to be a way of labelling the custodians of the law. Prostitutes in those days were also called "pig merchants". Nevertheless, with "thinking with the pigs" this paper suggests a cross-hybridization of the "I am" in the Cartesian assertion "I think, therefore I am". The "I" which is a "law" unto itself, and obsessed with announcing its own truth, produces the grotesque body of the carnival theatre in the simultaneous repression and identification of normative consciousness which displaces consciousness from itself. Freud was aware of this in forwarding the imperative for identity formation "wo es war, soll ich werden". Nevertheless, the superior mode of thinking that come to the fore with acting into the "unknown" and the nomadic self-positioning of the speaking subject in discourse, symbolically amounts to an engagement of the female body in the making of knowledge and the articulation of identity, and it amounts to the simultaneous celebration and reviling of the self as a thinking entity.

I do not wish to consider the Oedipal triangle in this paper, but rather to elaborate on the silencing of the speaking subject, and the empowerment of the other in this mode of "central neutrality". The speaking subject is empowered by the illusion of a "right to secrets" that come to the fore in the "neither... nor" self positioning, but at the same time "rot" and a deprived interiority is lodged within the "silenced" subject with the illusion of a "right to secret" (Derrida 1995). Equally so however, is that this "right to secrets" can be extremely patronising for the speaking subject, in the sense that the deprived interiority and "rot" which has been internalised can be exposed to the shame of the speaking subject. The "right to secret" and the accompanying "silence" of the speaking subject, make the subject own "rot" with the possible threat from the social order of exposing the prohibition which lodges the inner "rot" of the subject. Social responsibility is now skewed in the sense that the subject confess on demand, while at the same time has the responsibility to either hide the "rottenness", or to deceive in order to "become". Thus, the speaking subject is "split" by his social responsibility, while the other is symbolically empowered by the prohibition and its secrecy that veils the internalised "rot".

In conclusion then, contrary to popular view, this paper is suggesting that the social developments of our time and the ironic, postmodern condition of man has brought about greater freedom of expression of the repressed, and thus consolidated the repressed as such. It can be said that political struggles, those of capitalism, socialism or even communism, might have been to empower the people in a greater freedom of expression, while at the same time consolidated the repressed and the "silenced". The repressed is what insists, so that it is the prohibition and its "silence" which insists, and to this effect the consciousness of an oppressive aristocracy can prevail. Most notably, it is Christianity which repressed in the obsession of confessing the prohibition, and the simultaneous silencing of the speaking subject as he counts on his confession to make sense. Christianity, paradoxically, has always insisted on a "wall of silence", not only to empower herself politically, but also to hide her own political cross-hybridization.


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Mineau, A., 1989. Human Rights and Nietzsche. History of European Ideas, 11, 877-882.

O'Niell, J., 1983. Power and the Splitting ('Spaltung') of Language. New Literary History, 14, 695-710.

Stallybrass, P. & White, A., 1986. The Politics & Poetics of Transgression. London: Methuen.

Riva, M., 1989. 1888 - 1988: Some Remarks on Nihilism and Secularisation. History of European Ideas, 11, 979-988.

Watzlawick, P. Weakland, J. H. & Fisch, R., 1974. Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution. London: W.W. Norton & Co.

[email protected]

University of Namibia

Private Bag 13301



Bodies of knowledge: Processes of learning

Gudrun Kober

University of Namibia

Young's (1992, p 175-176) definition of oppression as "the everyday practices of well-intentioned liberal society": and her comment that "oppressions are systematically reproduced in major economic, political and cultural institutions", are particularly apt in a university setting. University settings are, to a large extent constituted by liberal discourses and yet are steeped in histories of exclusion. Power and privilege pervade these institutions of tertiary education which readily help to perpetuate structural inequalities in society 'at large'.

These issues impact on the process which constitutes the focus for this paper: An attempt to grapple with a body of knowledge, in this case, the formalized body of psychology in an African university setting. Foucault (1974, p 345) sets the scene for this process in his elucidation of how the social sciences appeared when man constituted himself in Western culture, and in pointing out that "There can be no doubt, certainly, that the historical emergence of each one of the human sciences was occasioned by a problem, a requirement, an obstacle of a theoretical or practical order ...". Thus psychology appears as a western discipline, as a product of a particular epoch in western history with particular pretensions to be a universalising discourse.

Within the southern African context, and against the background of analyses such as Foucault's, and the recognition of the potentially repressive role played by universities, notions of 'local' knowledges and of 'Africanizing psychology' seem to have become popular. In this paper an attempt will be made to explore these notions, including their possible implications. The discussion will connect these notions to "speaking from experience" (Smith, 1993) and to the concepts of "authoritative" and "internally persuasive" discourses as developed by Bakhtin (1981), cited in Shotter, (1993). Furthermore, 'emancipation' as a possible objective for the social sciences and for psychology in particular will be explored. Other issues which will be examined include processes of identity 'formation' and 'assertion' as well as 'reclaiming' (of knowledge and language).

Universalist claims as hegemonic

In the context of universities the knowledge/power connection as articulated by Foucault (in Rabinow, 1986) may become manifested in a perpetuation of uni-verses (Personal Communication, H Janse van Rensburg). The discipline of psychology, in its bid to be scientific, has attempted to develop laws of human behaviour which would apply to all human beings everywhere. In this sense the establishment of the discipline has entailed the creation and perpetuation of universes. That claims to universal knowledge tend to have as an effect the silencing and incorporation of disparate voices has been elucidated by several authors (see Flax, 1990; Smith, 1993). The postmodem, at least in part, consists in the undermining of hegemonic tendencies that seem to inhere in universalist claims. As Flax (1990) points out, the disrespectful polemics of postmodemism and the emphasis on play and differentiation serve a strategic purpose, at least in part. This is to binary positions because it entails a constant being on the move. In this way what was mentioned earlier in this paper as a possible pitfall involved in the articulation of new voices, namely extremism, might be avoided.

As opposed to the practice of social sciences in pursuit of a goal such as emancipation, the practice of deconstruction certainly does not entail the development of any positive visions. The vagueness and lack of specificity that seems to be postmodernism is manifested in its express refusal to articulate (a) new, alternative position(s).

The scepticism about constructing new perspectives in part arises from the recognition that visions for liberation can so easily be prescriptive so that the vision for emancipation becomes a recipe and, consequently, repressive. This latter possibility is illustrated in Lather's (1994) analysis of students' responses to a course on Women's Studies which is expressly aimed at emancipation; several respondents note that the course enforces a radical feminist position, that being anything other than and thinking outside radical feminism is deemed unacceptable.

Implications of deconstruchon for teaching

At this point a potential difficulty in respect of deconstruction and pertaining specifically to teaching may be raised. This difficulty has also been raised by others, although in different connections; for instance, Billig & Simons (1994) in respect of political action. The method of deconstruction would appear to rely and possibly be parasitic on the existence of already articulated positions, theories, content. In doing teaching and in conducting research certain facts, theories and concepts need to be accepted, if only for the time being and for specific purposes. To put this in other words: while deconstruction can enable us to avoid unified and rigidified positions, it still leaves the problem of what might be taught.

A public space as requirement for ideology critique and deconstruction

It would appear that both ideology critique and the process of deconstruction require a public space such as a university setting or other educational institutions. This was articulated as follows by a student in the context of a class discussion pertaining to the theme 'psychology in Africa': "The decolonization of the mind must therefore be seen as a collective enterprise, as a communal exorcism through an intellectual bath in which we need one another's help to scrub those backs of our minds which we cannot scrub by ourselves. Here is where we need to enlist the assistance of our educational institutions, the technicons and national universities, including the personnel employed in them..."

"Speaking form experience" as emancipation

The prescriptive trap, the turning of a vision for emancipation into a recipe may be avoided if teaching can allow for what Smith (1993) refers to as the "method of speaking from experience". According to Smith (1993, p 2) "speaking from experience" is "a practice of telling wherein the particular subject [is] authority in speaking of her everyday life and world known to her seems not to be so easily undermined" (Lather, 1944). In the southern African context, against the background of persistent questions regarding the relevance of psychology, the discipline may come to be constituted in terms of discourses of emancipation. This may be articulated in questions such as the following: 'What role might psychology play in process of decolonizing the mind?' 'How can psychology in Africa be used as a tool to get rid of and to break the symbiotic chain between the slave and the master or the subordinate and superordinate?'

Ideology critique as emancipation

Where splinter groups in the social sciences have set liberation as an objective, the tool for attaining that goal has tended to be ideology critique (Billig & Simons, 1994). Put somewhat simplistically, ideology critique has tended to entail a critique of received, commonly accepted notions of how the world works and an associated 'aufklaerung' in respect of how the world really works. Thus ideology critique tends to involve claims to knowledge of an underlying, hidden reality about which most people are deluded. Such a stance raises particular problems for teaching practice. What is more entrapping than a situation where a 'knowing' one reveals the 'truth' to the masses of the deluded in the name of radicalism?

Ideology critique and the taking of particular stands

Ideology critique would seem to entail taking particular stands, adopting specific positions as well as a concern with justifying those positions and stands. It would appear then that ideology critique entails being for certain 'things', ideas, policies and being against others. In academia this may amount to efforts to replace one body of knowledge by another. Hawkesworth (1989), for instance, argues that from the point of view of some feminists it is imperative that a new science, one that would be able to refute the distortions of androcentrism be built. Authors like Hawkesworth worry that the contingency which is a concomitant of a plurality of voices and a search for epistemological certitude is not in itself effective in undermining pretensions to power and authority. What she seems to be arguing, in other words, is that the undermining of existing systems of knowledge requires the building of counter systems which would enable and be constitutive of, a refutation of existing, dominant claims.

Gergen (1994) points out that ideology critique tends to be binary and that, as such, it is akin to rivalry and hostility. In line with Gergen's comment, it may be argued that positing 'real' interests as opposed to 'false' interests amounts to the construction of a - possibly spurious - dichotomy. Rather than proposing that there are some more or less immutable 'real' interests which persist beneath the overlay of false interests, it may be more appropriate to think in terms of difference, upon difference.

Scepticism in respect of 'emanicipation', and deconstruction

The process of deconstruction, which may be seen as the process of rescuing the unsaid from the said, can prevent us from getting stuck in these and undermine the power of the so-called "normalizing" discourse which made possible and legitimated the pattems of domination which are part and parcel of post-enlightenment western states.

Aspects of the challenge to universalism

Deconstructing the 'individual-society' dichotomy.

In psychology, universalist claims regarding human beings and the articulation of individualism have nourished one another in peculiar ways. As this discipline, too, has come to be articulated in the many different voices of those who were silenced, swept aside by universalist claims, the typically western notion of the individual as articulated by Geertz (cited in Sampson, 1993), amongst others, has also been undermined. Thus the celebration of the autonomous, self-contained individual has made way for the celebration of singularity and the particularity of specific groups / communities. As the dichotomy of the individual-society' or 'person-environment', and that of the private-public is undermined, there is increasing recognition and articulation of the body politic.

Reclaiming the suppressed and possible consequences of reclaiming

The challenging of universalist claims may entail a reclaiming of what is perceived to have been suppressed by these claims. This may take the form of reviving forgotten traditions and customs and of retelling history. There would seem to be a number of possible pitfalls associated with such reclaiming. The first of these would consist in a romantisization of the past. Thus old customs and values might come to be revered as absolutes and regarded uncritically. Secondly, the articulation of different voices by no means serves as a guarantee against repression; indeed the propensity for extremism and fanaticism would appear to be particularly eminent as different voices begin to be asserted. Identities may be articulated as certainties and rigidification may set in as particularist claims to knowledge are closed off to outside scrutiny. In other words, while new articulations may break the smooth, unified surface produced by normalizing discourses, the process may readily produce new dogmas, new repressions. An awareness of this pitfall was articulated by a student as part of a class discussion on psychology in Africa when, having noted the psychological wisdoms embedded in some local African traditions and customs, he proceeded to pose the critical question: "But is everything African good?". Thirdly, the romantisization of local knowledges may entail a form of patronage. Macedo (1994) for instance, points out that the valorization of a community knowledge base may serve to keep people in place and discourage them from seeking access to the cultural capital of institutions of higher learning.

Undermining universalist claims and emancipation

The undermining of universalist claims by the proliferation of voices has tended to have emancipatory effects even as emancipatory projects for the social sciences have been severely undermined, not just in the light of such deconstructions as effected by the likes of Foucault, but also by historic events. Nevertheless, in the social sciences the emancipatory impulse as "she is active in it." Thus the subject who is active in articulation from the actualities of her life and who is active in remembering is foregrounded relative to "relations of ruling" which include, amongst other things, scientific and technical discourses which traverse and help to orchestrate various centres of ruling. In this sense "speaking from experience" may entail an undermining of universalist claims. As a process of teaching and learning this would entail rendering formalized bodies of knowledge less absolute and monolithic. Furthermore, whereas a focus on formal and systematized bodies of knowledge would entail the transmission of knowledge to otherwise unprepared students, the "method of speaking from experience" would draw on pre-understandings which students bring to a subject. This does not mean that pre-understandings are already fully formed, waiting to be uncovered; rather a context is provided within which these can be articulated. To put this in other words: the subject (student) is active in re-membering, that is, in reassembling.

How the method of speaking form experience may lead to a sense of empowerment can be illustrated from experience may lead to a sense of empowerment can be illustrated by the following example from teaching. Some two years ago, as part of a third year psychology course entitled "Theoretical Foundations" students were trying to grapple with existentialism, specifically with the meaning of 'existence precedes essence' and why some existentialists are extremely wary of theories of human behaviour or human nature. The material we were dealing with was extremely abstract and students were becoming increasingly despondent and demotivated. Class attendance dropped. In desperation I phoned a former colleague for ideas on how to extricate the class from the quagmire. He suggested that the students were experiencing first hand the very concern of the existentialists; the alienation which comes with floundering in a sea of abstractions. As part of the next lecture period the students had the opportunity to reflect on and write down their experiences of the course at that point. Thus their own experiences could be used as a place from which to grapple successfully with a body of knowledge.

In the context of teaching and learning the "method of speaking from experience" may amount to a shift form what Bakhtin (1981, cited in Shotter, 1993) refers to as an "authoritative discourse" to an "internally persuasive discourse".

Experiences as articulated by Smith (1993) can be differentiated from subjective experiences in the sense of private, personal feelings which 'belong' to the individual. Furthermore, speaking form experience must be differentiated from teaching practice which amounts to a form of group psychotherapy in which there is a focus on the psychology of the individual (Macedo, 1994). Sharing of experiences also calls for political and ideological analyses to turn into dogma.

Psychology's subject; the subject of psychology

There is an analogy between the reflections on (some) processes of learning as reflected on above and profound, if not widely recognized changes pertaining to the 'content' of psychology, to the 'what' it is about. Specifically, the subject of psychology has come under intense scrutiny by authors such as Foucault (in Rabinow, 1986). The questioning of the subject as unified, autonomous / self-determining and non-contradictory has entailed and made possible new inter-disciplinary avenues of questioning and analysis. Just as the boundaries of the 'human subject' are now in constant flux, so the boundaries of the discipline of psychology are shifting. It would seem that this new theorizing of the subject is always teetering between a subtle environmentalism on the one hand and a hyper individualism on the other. While the theorizing of the subject is enriched by a recognition of how the personal is suffused to the core' with available cultural narratives, there is no need to collapse the two. Similarly there would seem to be value in keeping the distinction and tension between the public and the private.

As noted above, Foucault (1974) situates the development of psychology as a discipline in very specific socio-historical circumstances. Danziger (1990) and du Preez (1991) further elucidate a social constructivist position (while not necessarily agreeing with such a position). Danziger (1990) points out that the production of scientific knowledge involves the validation of knowledge claims by a number of individuals, including reviewers, textbook writers and readers. Du Preez (1991, p. 10) elucidates how, from a social constructivist position, the formal presentation of science, which makes it appear as if "the logic of the world" determines the flow of events involved in the process of scientific discovery, conceals the manner in which "knowledge is dressed up for public consumption", the moulding of data, the endeavours to make ideas appear convincing to others. The forms which knowledge products are permitted to take are social products. This is so, not just in the sense that these forms are determined by a community of knowledge producers and centres of social power whose goodwill and support must be enlisted if success is to be achieved. This is an instance of the power/knowledge unity as elaborated by Foucault (in Rabinow, 1986).

A recognition of the social construction of psychological knowledge raises a number of questions. Firstly, does this mean that knowledge generated under specific circumstances is applicable only in those circumstances and that it cannot be generalized to other circumstances? (The investigation of this question has particular relevance to thinking about psychology in an African context). Secondly, does the type of analysis conducted by the likes of Foucault, from the 'outside' render analysis from the 'inside' obsolete? More specifically, Foucault clearly states (see Rabinow, 1986) that he is not interested in comparing the different knowledge claims within any social science, but that he wants to examine these as a function of the sociohistorical context in which they arose. In the process he does seem to treat the social sciences as a monolithic block and to ignore complex differentiations within the disciplines. How can analysis form the 'inside' proceed in a way which would take account of Foucaults's revolutionary insights? These questions are also, at least in part, questions regarding the realities with which the discipline of psychology is concerned.

That there is a psychological reality which is not simply a function of the particular conditions in which it was investigated. That we should be careful to be reductionistic; whether in the sense of being biological reductionists or; in the sense of collapsing psychological reality into particular socio-historic conditions.

Here I should like to make a tentative and as yet undeveloped appeal for a psychological reality which is not simply a function of the particular conditions under which it was investigated. The appeal for such a psychological reality is based, much less on a clear notion of how such a reality may be conceptualized, than on a sense that the collapse of (a) psychological reality(ies) into particular socio-historical conditions is reductionistic and misses the sheer complexity of human life.


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Brown, R.W. (1994). Reconstructing socialtheory after the postmodem critique. In H.W. Simons & M. Billig (Eds.), After postmodernism: reconstructing ideology critique. Sage Publications: London.

Danziger, K. (1990). Constructing the subject: historical origins of psychological research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dews, P. (1987). Logics of disintegration: Post-structuralist thought and the claims of critical theory. Verso: London.

du Preez, P. (1991). A science of mind: the quest for psychological reality. Academic Press Ltd.: London.

Flax, J. (1990). Thinking fragments: psychoanalysis, feminism, and postmodemism in the contemporary West. University of California Press: California.

Foucault, M. (1974). The order of things. An archeology of the human sciences. London: Tavistock Publications.

Gergen, K. J. (1994). The limits of pure critique. In H.W. Simons & M. Billig (Eds.), After postmodernism: reconstructing ideology critique. Sage Publications: London.

Hawkesworth, M.E. (1989). Knowers, knowing, known: feminist theory and claims of truth. Signs: Joumal of women in culture and society, 14(31).

PRINCALS analysis:

Why PRINCALS to analyse qualitative data?

Prof. Dr. H.W. Kruijsse

University of Stellenbosch

The Popperian approach of science refers to the context of justifying knowledge rather than to the context of discovery. The difference between so called qualitative and quantitative research becomes academic when descriptive techniques are used in the collection and the analyses of qualitative data. Whether data collection is based on qualitative variables or based on unoperationalised ideas, the difference refers to the level of formalisation rather than the level of quantification. The discovery of patterns and the conceptualisation of themes is a process of identifying 'meaningful' sequences and the occurrence of code labels; formally it is a process of data reduction. Methods to analyse nominal differences and ordinal likeness should therefore be considered as an enrichment rather than a threat in describing relationships between multiple categories. PRINCALS is extremely helpful in carrying out complex forms of logical analysis by representing the relationships graphically. It creates a more dimensional space in which code labels are projected on the bases of the occurrence and or similarity the researcher assumes between these codes. It transforms the labels with the restriction of invariance in such a way that the dimensions represent the underlying themes.


Why would qualitative research make use of multidimensional scaling techniques? For, qualitative research resents the operationalisation and quantification of variables. This answer seems to be based on a number of beliefs about the quantification of qualitative variables, about the differences between qualitative and quantitative research and about the advantages of qualitative above quantitative research. The use of qualitative methods is not an open door to free association. It is a method of data collection and analyses which, as quantitative research, has to meet ethical and scientific demands. The criteria by which these demands are evaluated differ. Where bracketing also 'controls' the frame of reference for the one, inter-and intra rater reliability does that for the other. But both have to account for the credibility of the researcher. It is remarkable how easily a polarisation of both research methods result in the categorisation of 'qualitative' researchers as phenomenologists and existentialists and 'quantitative' researchers as positivists. As if the difference between the context of discovery and the context of justification is irrelevant. As if credibility is secured by theory. Credibility of a researcher is not situated in being a phenomologist or positivist but in how the study attempts to answer a research question and is subsequently conducted. The variety of exotic topics of 'qualitative studies' reflect the generation of different research questions. It does not, however, reflect the exclusive right of 'qualitative research' on explorative research and N=1 studies (Heiser, 1990). Nor does it reflect the exemption of 'qualitative' researchers to be grounded in 'quantitative' data analyses. The increase in qualitative research might be explained by the shift in the research tradition in South Africa (Kruijsse, 1996a). The results of studies (Visser and van Staden, 1990; Huysamen, 1996) and discussions (HSRC, 1996) about methodology, however, suggest that the preference in qualitative research might also be explained by deficiency. These studies and discussions show a dominance of basic statistics in psychological research in South Africa, how multi-variate designs are treated as bi-variate designs (Kruijsse, 1996a) and the need for better training in methodology. The aim of this article is to show that the difference between 'qualitative' and quantitative research is less dogmatic than it seems to be. Particularly from a pragmatic angle: the angle of research. It will be argued that, 'qualitative' research might be improved by being familiar with techniques such as PRINCALS (Gifi, 1985, 1990).


Although some might claim that phenomenologists oppose the stage of conceptualisation as being a threat against biases, nuancing seems necessary. Research never starts from scratch. The researcher's perceptions are reflected in the generation of a research question and categories irrespective of the level of formalisation of the researcher's frame of reference. Since conceptualisation inherently implies the formalisation of the researchers' knowledge, perspectives and beliefs, credibility is 'controlled'. In the course of becoming familiar with the subjects experiences, the researcher's perceptions might and are supposed to be changed. But the proneness to representatives and availability heuristics, to confirmation bias and bounded rationality cannot be neglected even if we are scientists. Cognisance of studies therefore improves insight into these experiences (Moore and Shantall, 1996). Evidently, the difference between 'qualitative' and quantitative research is not defined by the stage of conceptualisation.

Numeric and non numeric

Neither is the difference between 'qualitative' and quantitative research defined by the the difference between qualitative and quantitative variables. The latter ones are 'natural' variables which generate numerics e.g. the length of a person. Ethnic background is an example of a qualitative variable. The level in which you feel comfortable in a crowded Taxi van is also a qualitative variable. It is ridiculous to suggest that you would feel twice as comfortable on a bicycle. But it makes sense when you would say that you feel more comfortable on a bicycle than in a Taxi van. That you are more confident when you drive instead of being driven. Although these variables are not numeric they contain more information than for example ethnicity; a categorical variable. There is a certain order defined by 'more comfort' which lacks a categorical variable. The question how to label these variables is irrelevant as long as the properties of these variables remain unaffected. Thus, a 'numeric' value is nothing more then a label. The point of this exercise is that the difference between 'qualitative' and quantitative research is not the numeric labelling of items. The use of word processors and more sophisticated applications to analyse 'qualitative' data proves that point (Payze, 1996).

The treatment of variables

A fundamental aspect of techniques of data-analyses lay in the treatment of the variables. Categorical variables should be treated as nominal. Variables which can be ordered can be treated as nominal or ordinal. Treating an ordinal variable as an interval variable is a violation of the property of that variable. Feeling 'more comfortable' is an ordinal variable. The expression 'more' is almost intuitively associated with volume or distance. In fact, it seems very logical to represent 'travelling by train' close to 'travelling by Taxi' but far from 'travelling with a bicycle and moped' on the dimension of control. The transformation of ordinal variables into distances, however, is conditional: the transformation should be invariant. Thus closeness is relative rather then absolute. The principle of invariant transformation underlie the optimal scaling of variables (Young, 1981). Whether the data already consist of qualitative variables summarised into categorical judgements or rankorders, or whether the data is thematised and itemised, an optimal relationship between variables (or subjects) can be explored in the search for underlying constructs. An example of how this is established will be given below. As for the difference between 'qualitative' and quantitative research, the quantification variables with the restriction of invariant transformation is not a determinant. Moreover, the term qualitative research seems rather inadequate since most of the research in the psychological field uses qualitative variables.


The difference seems to be reflected by how variables are conceptualised rather then the properties of the variables. Variables can be regarded as a set of operandi to measure a psychological construct. By defining qualitative variables a formal relationship between these variables and the conceptualisation of the phenomenon to be studied is assumed. This relationship is based on what is known about that phenomenon through literature. The less a formal relationship is defined the more explorative the research will be. This does not imply the abolition of conceptualisation. But it does imply a rejection of operationalisation. Generating categories from the research data itself versus defining categories prior to the data collection might represent two different philosophical schools. But on the level of data collection and analysis it is rather a one dimensional representation of two extremes.

Optimal scaling

To illustrate how it is possible to optimally scale qualitative data a somewhat adapted and simplified example about constructing a map of South Africa is given. The restriction is that no assumptions are made about a relationship between 'answer-categories' other than that they are nominally different. Suppose, you mentioned that Jo-Burg is closer to Durban than Port Elisabeth is to Cape Town. And I asked you whether Jo-Burg is closer to Port Elisabeth than Durban is to Cape Town. When you said yes, you added that Johannesburg is further from Cape Town then Port Elisabeth is from Durban. So far we could represent these distances without too much difficulty. But it becomes more complicated when I compare all the possible alternatives. So I drew a circle with Jo-Burg at random somewhere inside of it and PE randomly outside of it. I drew a second circle of the same scale with Cape Town somewhere inside of it and Durban outside of it. With the restriction, however, that the distance between Durban and Cape Town should be longer than Jo-Burg and PE. I then continued asking whether Cape Town is closer to Durban than Jo-burg is to Durban and I was forced to rotate my circles relative to each other.

Clearly, by exploring the possible combinations over more cities I would be able to draw a map. I will not be able to draw a map with the exact distances. But I will know there relative distances to each other. I shall have to deal with intransitive situations like A is close to B, B close to C but C is not close to A. But in the end I shall be able to define positions of the cities; not perfectly and not in exact distances, but relative to each other. Thus, the less inconsistencies the less effort (stress) it will take me to map the cities accurately. If I would ask more subjects, the probability of inconsistencies might increase even to such an extent that a third dimension is necessary to keep the stress low. However, a third dimension will not be accurate unless a subject referred to time travel instead of a straight line between cities.


In analogy with the example, PRINCALS is able to map psychological data. PRINCALS is a combination of PRINcipal component analysis and Alternating Last Squares. PRINCALS' most important criterion is minimising stress. It rearranges the categories of the variables such that an optimal transformation is found. Transformations, however, are restricted to the level of scale measurement. The relationship between the transformed variables is given by projecting these variables into a more dimensional space. Analogous with Principal Component Analysis (PCA), the dimensions represent latent (transformed) factors underlying the data. The number of dimensions are optional but as explained in the example above, a limited amount of dimensions are attractive. PRINCALS is supported by SPSS (Statistical Package of Social Sciences) and generates the following output.


The Eigenvalue is the fit per dimension. It indicates how successful PRINCALS was in fitting the transformed items into one or more dimensions. The Eigenvalue is the mean of the squared component loading and explains the variance of the transformed items. The most common criteria to decide the number of eigenvalues are: 1. A dimension should explain at least more variance (standardised) than the variance of a single variable. For, there is no benefit to assume a dimension if it explains less then the variance of its items Thus, the minimum Eigenvalue should be more then 'one'. 2. The elbow criterion selects the number of eigenvalues when the eigenvalues are graphically represented as a function of the order of the dimensions. Eigenvalues above the elbow are considered as relevant. 3. The third criterion refers to the ability of interpretation. For example, when a third dimension might meet the first criterion but is hard to interpret, a two-dimensional representation might be beneficial. The next step in the analysis is to investigate the component loadings.


In most of the cases the matrix is constructed such that the columns represent the variables, the rows represent the subjects (cases) and the cells contain the categories (responses). An objectscore is a summary of the responses on the variables of one subject. Since a dimension represent an underlying construct objectscores are calculated per dimension. Objectscores can be used for further analyses by different techniques.

Component loadings and Fit

Component Loadings contain essential information to interpret the relationship between the variables and the labelling of the two dimensions of our example. It is the correlation between a variable and a dimension. Thus, a dimension can be labelled by identifying variables which correlate highly with the dimension. The squared Component Loading of a variable indicates the contribution of that variable in defining the dimension. It is called the Fit or discriminate value of a variable. The sum of the Fit of one variable is the total proportion of variance accounted for by that variable. Compared to PCA it represents the communality of a variable. Thus, on the basis of the squared Component Loading the level in which a transformed variable discriminates, can be identified. Once the main underlying constructs in the data are identified, the relationship between the variables can be evaluated. Since component loadings are the coordinates of a multi-dimensional space the variables can be plotted as the map of South Africa. The relative distance between the variables represent their relationship. It is furthermore easy to identify variables which group together.

Category quantification

To explain category quantification the example about travelling will be used. Although it might be clear that 'travelling with a Taxi' is closely related to 'travelling with the train' it is not clear how both are related. It might very well be that travelling by train is considered as (relatively) more comfortable than by Taxi. Suppose that 'comfort' was rated on a five point scale. Then category one of 'travelling with a Taxi' might be localised close to category two and three of 'travelling with the train'. As component loadings, the category quantifications are plotted by SPSS. For an elaborate discussion see Kruijsse, 1996b.


The difference between 'qualitative' and quantitative research is less dogmatic is it seems. The stage of conceptualisation as well as the stage of analyses of qualitative variables are not the determinants of the difference. When taken into account the difference between the context of discovery versus the context of justification, the difference is neither determined by data collection. Unstructured data collection is not uniquely linked to 'qualitative' research. The difference between 'qualitative' and quantitative research seems to be the way in which a relationship is formalised between variables and a psychological construct in the stage of conceptualisation. It was argued that the difference between 'qualitative' and quantitative research on the level of data collection and analysis is rather a one dimensional representation of two extremes. It was explained how qualitative variables can be analysed by PRINCALS. A categorical and multi-dimensional scaling technique which transforms the variables such that underlying constructs are identified and an optimal relationship between the variables is found. Although PRINCALS generate an output similar to factor analysis, it's ability to deal with variables of different scale measurement, it's powerful graphical representation and it's explorative property which gives room for non-rigid interpretations, makes PRINCALS suitable for logical analyses of qualitative data.


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Kruijsse, H.W. (1996b). How to map a reality: Why PRINCALS to analyse qualitative data? In Press.

Moore C., Shantall, T. (1996) Qualitative Research: A body divided by itself? Presented at the 2nd. Annual South African Qualitative Methods Conference at the University of Witwatersrand, September '96.

Payze, C. (1996). An overvieuw of computer aided qualitative data analysis techniques. Presented at the 2nd. Annual South African Qualitative Methods Conference at the University of Witwatersrand, September, 1996.

Staden van, F. and Visser D. (1989). Analysis of themes and statistical techniques: A review of the past decade of the South African Journal of Psychology. South African Journal of Psychology, 20 (2), 47-55.

Young, F.W. (1981). Quatitative Analysis of Qualitative Data. Psychometrika, vol.46, no. 4. pp. 357-388.

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An overview of computer aided

qualitative data analysis techniques

Catherine Payze

Psychology Department, University of South Africa


Contextual comments:

I think at this point in time there are several well developed positions in the debate specifically concerning the use of computers for qualitative data analysis. In my mind there are, for example, those (in the interpretive hermeneutic camp) which think it simply must not be done for every time one does something to the data one becomes one step further removed from it (for instance when transcribing or coding). There are also those (some in the same camp but also many who are more eclectic) who think it must be done because of the benefits of enhanced validity and reliability in qualitative research, or those who think the answer is not as clear cut as either of the above camps claim and that rather, the answer to such a question should be contextually determined. Personally I sometimes wonder whether people would debate this issue from such different worlds if there were more reflection on the terms we use and the philosophical position which underlies our arguments. Perhaps. As for the session itself: At the end of the paper during discussion time several issues were raised. As I describe some of that discussion here, I use the notion of qualitative research/researcher in its broadest sense and possibly even devoid of any paradigmatic connotation to denote research utilising textual data such as full length interviews, while quantitative research/researcher refers to the use of mainly numerically coded data e.g. some of the data on survey questionnaires.

One of the issues which was debated for some time is the notion that computer aided qualitative data analysis claims to do much more with one's qualitative data than packages like SPSS which are mainly directed at quantitative data analysis, while this may not be the case. For example some of the relational structures between codes can be as easily reproduced in SPSS as in ATLAS/ti. However, a counter argument from my side was that one should not look exclusively at one aspect of any package, but rather at the package as a whole in terms of what it can do for your project or your work in general. I think there may be a lot of resistance toward some claims being made that software for computer aided qualitative data analysis is the new Alpha and Omega to solve all those tricky problems which quantitative data analysis software couldn't handle - and off course it is not. To my knowledge no software for qualitative data analysis is without flaw, nor does any one package suit the needs of any one user exactly. We all need to adjust to the things within the programs which do not work for us, but the important issue to address is whether any one package as a whole can aid in the improvement of a rigorous scientific research process during any one project.

Another point raised questioned the notion that there can be no rigorous research of value to the scientific community when the data analysis phase of a project was completed without the aid of a computer. I do not think that projects containing a qualitative data analysis phase which did not make use of a computer, do not contribute to scientific knowledge On the contrary, qualitative researchers have been producing extremely valuable research results for years by using filing cabinets, scissors, coloured markers and photocopiers. Perhaps the question to ask at the outset is whether any one project actually warrants the financial investment as well as the investment in time to learn a new package, when this is weighed up against the gains of the improved validity and reliability of the analysed data. For example, if one's project is a case study consisting of five fairly short interviews it may really not be worth while to use a computer in the data analysis phase.

There were also some general questions raised. One of these was whether some of the more advanced qualitative data analysis software packages such as ATLAS/ti or NUD.IST were combatable with quantitative data analysis packages like SPSS. ATLAS/ti can produce an SPSS file of one's project at the click of a button. To my knowledge NUD.IST still requires the researcher to write a command file to do this, which requires a bit of work, but it can be done.

The above are some of the issues raised during the discussion.


This paper presents an overview of the strengths, weaknesses and special capabilities of some of the more popular and advanced software packages for qualitative data analysis. This is not a full length paper but rather a synopsis of some of thepoints I raised during the session. Firstly the paradigmatic distinctions which I use will be stated after which I will present a very brief overview of existing tools for computer aided qualitative data analysis.

In my own work I have found it useful to place any research question paradigmatically before developing an appropriate design for the project meant to answer the research question. Smaling (1994a:234) concisely defines a paradigm as follows:

"In the relevant literature a paradigm is conceived as a constellation of beliefs, norms, and values which guides scientific action."

Various paradigmatic conceptualizations exist. For example, Smaling (1994a; 1994b) distinguishes three different research paradigms, namely the empirical-analytical, the interpretive and the critical paradigms. On the other hand, Cook & Reichardt (1979) distinguish between two paradigms namely the qualitative and quantitative paradigms, while Guba and Lincoln (1988) distinguish between the conventional paradigm and the alternative paradigm. However, I find Smaling's (1994a:234; 1994b) conceptualization of the different paradigms to be most comprehensive from the perspective of the philosophy of social science research, and therefore, align myself with it.

Smaling (1994a:233; 1994b) describes the empirical-analytical paradigm, the interpretive paradigm and the critical paradigm. He argues that these paradigms are often distinguished from each other on several philosophical levels, namely those of ontology, epistemology, axiology, meta-theory and methodology. However, these distinctions do not make the paradigms mutually exclusive nor do they necessarily place them in opposition to each other. I therefore use the distinctions here only for the purposes of placing myself in the debate. In this paper I will focus only on the methodological level as it has bearing on qualitative data analysis.

The methodological level is of particular importance in the design of any social sciences research project. Speake (1979:230) defines methodology in the following manner:

"The study of method, usually covering the procedures and aims of a particular discipline, and enquiry into the way in which that discipline is organized."

For the purposes of social sciences research, attention needs to be given specifically to those norms which govern the measures of scientificity in research, and notably to the conceptualization of objectivity, validity and reliability. According to Smaling (1992b: 171), objectivity is equated with regimentation (for example in the standardization of tests), consensus (for example intersubjective testability such as in the work of Popper (1968) or interobserver agreement such as in the work of Kerlinger (1970)), or intersubjective controllability ("to be as explicit as possible about the used materials, methods, and designs and the arguments used for the selection of particular data, concepts, methods, designs, interpretations, explanations and theories") within the empirical-analytical paradigm. The interpretive paradigm holds a conceptualization of subjectivity (utilizing the trained subjective qualities of the researcher as an aid rather than a hazard). Finally, the critical paradigm conceptualizes objectivity as an orientation towards historical emancipatory tendencies (Smaling, 1994b).

Two other norms of particular importance in governing social sciences research are those of reliability and validity, the applied meaning of which vary according to paradigm. I argue here not only that the application of these methodological norms is essential in the production of scientific knowledge, but also that an understanding of their different meanings in terms of application across the three paradigms is a crucial prerequisite for being able to do or evaluate research projects effectively. Smaling (1992a:309) defines reliability in the following manner:

"Reliability is a methodological requirement that can be imposed on procedures (such as observations, techniques, methods, (measuring) instruments, research processes (and frameworks) and on the results of research studies (such as collected data, interim and final conclusions and assessments). The core meaning of methodological reliability is the absence of random errors. These are errors that distort the object of study and for which no definite regularity or system is assumed."

He then continues to describe the criteria for enhancing reliability (1992a: 313):

"In qualitative research various measures can be taken to enhance reliability. As far as internal reliability is concerned, the following measures exist: triangulation..., peer examination (checking with fellow researchers ...), member checks (submitting inconsistencies between research findings to the persons studied ...), reasoned consensus (achievement of agreement between project participants on the basis of open discussion based on arguments), selection and training of fellow researchers, observers, interviewers, encoders etc.), audit trail (independent auditors examine everything ...), ... automation of aspects of data processing and analysis. As far as external reliability ... is concerned, two steps are necessary: Description and explication. This involves precise description (thick description) of: the status and the role that the researcher had in the eyes of the research subjects, the relevant characteristics of the selected subjects ... the concepts used, theoretical ideas and research methods, etc".

Furthermore validity is defined by Smaling (1992a:314) as: "Validity is a methodological requirement for procedures (such as observations, techniques, methods, (measuring) instruments, research processes and frameworks) and research results (such as collected data, assessments, interim and final conclusions of the analysis). An important meaning of validity is the absence of random and systematic errors... This not uncommon conception of validity leads to the result that, logically speaking, complete reliability is in fact possible without validity in a sense other than that of reliability, but that complete validity is not possible without reliability. Besides this negative formulation of validity (absence of errors) a positive formulation is also frequently used: agreement between procedures and results on the one hand and the 'intended' object of study on the other hand. These two formulations are far from synonymous: in research practice for example the one-sided emphasis on the avoidance of errors can in fact hamper the finding of fresh, surprising insights".

Smaling (1992a: 314) also distinguishes between various forms of validity, namely internal validity (validity within a research project, including content validity, concept validity and logical validity); and external validity (the meaning of the study for those persons, situations, etc. who were not involved, including generalizability and transferential validity).

Three types of internal validity are distinguished. Content validity refers mainly to the validity of the instruments used, for example the questionnaires or interview schedules. Concept validity refers to procedures such as the appropriate completion of the questionnaire. Logical validity refers to the degree to which the research project is defendable in terms of its design, and also the results obtained from within the particular design.

Two types of external validity are distinguished. Generalizability refers to the degree to which the results of the study can be applied to populations other than the one which was studied, while transferential validity refers to the utilization by others of some of the findings, rather than an across the board generalization to another population.

According to Smaling (1992a:318):

"Content or substantive validity can be ensured in qualitative research by preparing a comprehensive register of data, notes of relevant events and the state of affairs, and theoretical and methodological memoranda and by regularly studying these notes and memoranda ... During the analysis process a period can be set aside in which data are arranged and interpreted without making use of special knowledge of the literature ... For both content and concept validity it is very helpful to use member checks, peer debriefing and audit trail ... In qualitative research ... logical validity is dependent on the logic of the research framework ... (T)heory-driven data collection yields a great variety in the data, the external validity is thereby enhanced ... As far as transferential validity is concerned, a requirement is that the research report should firstly contain an accurate description of the research process, and secondly an explication of the arguments for the different choices of the method etc., and thirdly a detailed description (thick description) of the research situation and context ..."

Given the above I argue that objectivity in qualitative research can be enhanced by the use of computers in certain instances by adhering to the principles of intersubjective controllability. Furthermore, reliability can be enhanced by the use of computers during the qualitative data analysis phase by aiding researcher triangulation (technically projects can be e-mailed or sent via disk from researcher to researcher, while two researchers in the same city can share their combined data analysis efforts via one computer or network); method triangulation (if computer analysis is combined with analysis by hand); peer examination (it may be easier to show one's work to another researcher who is also acquainted with the same software package than to share one's notes from the filing cabinet); and audit trial (technically, depending on the size of the project, this may make the work of checking the data analysis easier for independent researchers). Of course, automated processing and analysis is itself stated by Smaling to be useful in enhancing reliability in qualitative research. As far as validity is concerned, the use of computers may help with keeping extensive notes and memoranda, as well as the use of memos in theory driven data collection.

However, having said this, it should be borne in mind that not all packages are capable of doing all of the above and that probably only one or two can do them all. This means that the existing software for qualitative data analysis often does no more than aid one in the management of large volumes of data and may indeed not be worth investing in for other reasons. I will now briefly look at the packages on the market as described and indexed by Weitzman & Miles (1995).

Weitzman & Miles classify the 24 software packages for qualitative data analysis which they reviewed into five categories, namely text retrievers, textbase managers, code-and retrieve programs, code-based theory-builders, and conceptual network builders. These will now be briefly discussed.

Weitzman & Miles (1995:27) describe text retrievers as follows: They "are basically good at hunting for words, phrases, or other 'strings' of characters in your database, and then bringing them to you for your scrutiny, either one at a time and/or collected in a batch. They may range considerably in details of how you give them a search request and how you search 'hits' look when you get them. Some can do frequency distributions or crosstabs of your hits as well." Bearing in mind the goal of enhanced validity, reliability and objectivity, I find these packages of fairly limited use. However, some e.g. Metamorph are rated highly in terms of their purpose. Furthermore these packages have the added advantage of being fairly easy to learn and use.

The next category which Weitzman & Miles (1995:98) review are textbase managers. These are described as follows: Textbase managers "are related to the 'text retriever' family, but with some added functions. They keep your data in a systematic, ordered fashion - whether that involves 'records' and 'fields', free form text, or even quantitative information linked to text. They help you manage complex databases, and can sort or segment them into meaningful subsets to help you make comparisons and contrasts. They're also good at search and retrieval." Personally, I find these more helpful than text retrievers in terms of rigorous data analysis, especially when faced with large volumes of data. They may also be a good choice of software if one does not require complex searching, indexing, memoing or hypertext functions, since packages such as Folio VIEWS or askSam are quite useful all purpose database managers.

Weitzman & Miles (1995: 148) describe code-and retrieve programs as follows: These programs "assume that you want to 'code' your data - that is apply keywords to meaningful segments or 'chunks', such as lines, sentences or paragraphs of your text. They help you to set up the kind of 'chunks' you want to use, to develop a list of codes, to attach the right codes to the right chunks - and then to search for and retrieve all the chunks to which one or several codes have been applied." These programs are fairly well known and widely used. They include the Ethnograph, Kwalitan, HyperQual2, QUALPRO, and Martin. While WinMax was not reviewed by Weitzman & Miles, my guess would be that it fits here as well. A large advantage of these packages is that they are usually easy to learn and use and that they actually make the process of labouring through hundreds of pages of data less tedious, time consuming and intimidating. However, although they are more specifically dedicated to qualitative data analysis than textbase managers, they also do not allow for the more advanced functions contained in the code-based theory-builders.

Code-based theory-builders are in my opinion the most complex and advanced packages on the market for qualitative data analysis and are described by Weitzman & Miles (1995:204): "They too (except for one program, QCA) can do code-and-retrieve operations effectively, but they have structures and functions that provide assistance in building and testing theory as well. They help you to develop categories and outlines, extending your coding scheme; to annotate your data, write memos and link these to your codes; to formulate and test propositions or hypothesis; and sometimes to see graphical representations of the relationships among your concepts. They're often organized around a formal system of rules or logic." Because of the myriad of functions in packages such as ATLAS/ti or NUD.IST I argue here that these can indeed contribute a great deal to the enhancement of objectivity, reliability and validity in qualitative research, provided that the project is large enough to warrant the use of software during the data analysis phase, or that the researcher is already familiar with the software. A package like ATLAS/ti is particularly useful since it also contains some of the functions contained in conceptual network-builders. The largest problem with these packages is the amount of time that needs to be invested in learning the program, especially in a country like South Africa where the majority of the population, including many in the scientific community, is completely computer illiterate. This problem is partially addressed by mailing list for support such as those run by the developers of ATLAS/ti or NUD.IST, which provide fairly quick responses to those in need, provided they have access to, and are familiar with the internet. There are sometimes also local distributers for programs (e.g. ATLAS/ti or askSam in South Africa) which may be able to assist users for the price of a phone call to the Gauteng area.

Finally, Weitzman & Miles (1995:266) review conceptual network-builders: This software "also helps you build and test theory, using semantically meaningful networks. The networks contain 'nodes' (representing your key variables) and 'links' (representing the relationships among the variables). These are not just programs for drawing or diagramming. They base their graphic displays on your concepts, your thinking about your data, and your higher level propositions - and facilitate your ongoing conceptual work. Of these Inspiration and MetaDesign seem to be the most popular, often used in conjunction with NUD.IST which does not contain any form of relational links beyond its original indexing format.

In conclusion, when looking at the use of computer software for qualitative data analysis, I argue here that the norms of objectivity, reliability and validity should be the biggest consideration. However, practical issues also need to be evaluated. Qualitative data analysis software may be of no value to the research project if it will require vast amounts of project funding to install (especially when hardware needs to be upgraded first) and learn. Furthermore, the size of the project may not warrant such an expense. Also, and perhaps most important of all, qualitative researchers have been producing rigorous, valuable, useful research results without the aid of computers for many years. While the current trend to analyse with the aid of computers may enhance the degree certain methodological norms are adhered to, this in itself does not negate the scientific value of what has been done without computers. And finally, just as quantitative data analysis via computer is open to abuse, so is qualitative data analysis using computers - More and more projects are claiming to use some or other form of computerised qualitative data analysis as a means to improve the scientific value of their findings, while their designs remain weak or inappropriate - software for qualitative data analysis is not a magic wand which can hide or eradicate the flaws inevitably present in any project, it can merely aid the rigorous and honest researcher to better manage vast amounts of data in ways which can best do justice to the project.


Cook, T.D. & Reichardt, C.S. (1979). Beyond qualitative versus quantitative methods. In T.D. Cook & C.S. Reichardt (Eds). Qualitative and quantitative methods in evaluation research. Beverly Hills: Sage.

Guba, E.G. & Lincoln, Y. (1988). Do inquiry paradigms imply inquiry methodologies? In. D.M. Fetterman (Ed). Qualitative approaches to evaluation in education. New York: Praeger, pp. 89-115.

Kerlinger, F.N. (1970). Foundations of behavioural research. London: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Smaling, A. (1992a). Objectivity, reliability and validity. In G.J.N. Bruinsma & M.A. Zwanenburg (Eds). Methodology for management specialists: Trends and methods. Muiderberg: Dick Coutinho.

Smaling, A. (1992b). Varieties of methodological intersubjectivity - the relations with qualitative and quantitative research, and with objectivity. Quality and Quantity. 26, 169-180.

Smaling, A. (1994a). The pragmatic dimension: Paradigmatic and pragmatic aspects of choosing a qualitative or quantitative method. Quality and Quantity. 28, 233-249.

Smaling, A. (1994b). Series of lectures presented to the Centre for Research Methodology Winter School, Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, July. (Unpublished).

Speake, J. (Ed). (1979). A dictionary of philosophy. London: Pan Books.

Weitzman, E.A. & Miles, M.B. (1995). Computer programs for qualitative data analysis. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Biographical note:

Catharine Payze completed a BA degree at the University of Pretoria in 1989 and a BA (Hons) degree in Psychology at the University of South Africa in 1992. She is currently in the process of completing a MA (Research Psychology) at the University of South Africa. She is also a member of the Psychological Society of South Africa. She began her career at the Human Sciences Research Council in 1990, where she received extensive hands-on training, notably in qualitative research methodology, and was involved in several research projects, mostly on the subject of political violence. Furthermore, she conducted several workshops on qualitative research methods including qualitative interviewing techniques and qualitative data analysis. She left the HRSC in 1995 to pursue the interests of her own business, ARK Research cc, where she continued to conduct training in qualitative research methods as well as computer aided qualitative data analysis. She currently lectures in the Department of Psychology at the University of South Africa. She has, together with some colleagues, produced a book and several chapters in books. She has also published some articles for the more popular press and delivered several conference papers.

[email protected]

Department of Psychology

University of South Africa

PO Box 392



Qualitative Research in South Africa:

Methodological and Ethical Concerns

Paula Henning

Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

This paper uses Belinda Bozzoli's book "Women of Phokeng" as a springboard for an analysis of ethical issues that arise when whites are conducting interview-based research in black communities of southern Africa. I argue that the usual problems of interpretation and representation of respondents by researchers are complicated by the variables of race and class difference, especially in the uniquely stratified environment of South Africa. Bozzoli's use of a black interviewer to conduct all the book's fieldwork raises problematic issues of authorship, authority, and the hierarchical distance of white researchers from black Africa.

Sociologists and other social researchers have often wrestled with the implications of qualitative research: what is it? How is it untraditional? How can it be feminist? What are the ethical issues involved? These questions face every investigator who uses interviews, life histories, ethnographies, and other text-based ways of gathering data. A researcher in Africa, however, particularly a white researcher of Southern Africa like myself, must also face additional complications and puzzles about how to generate good and politically sensitive qualitative research.

Some of these issues facing the sociologist of Africa are general, dealing with debates over what exactly constitutes qualitative research, if particular epistemologies dictate particular methodologies, and what is the role of the sociologist in the "real world". Other research issues deal more specifically with the context of southern Africa: one of these is the question of who can know whom, specifically pondering if white, degreed researchers are "qualified" to speak for or about Black Africans. Related to this are issues of authorship: who gives and who takes knowledge in a research exchange, and how is this influenced by the strange dynamics of a vastly unequal, post-apartheid society?

What is qualitative research?

A primary obstacle to the discussion of this question is the lack of agreement among social scientists about what constitutes a qualitative perspective. The greatest inconsistency lies between researchers that define qualitative-ness in terms of methods -- the use of text, interviews, ethnographies, etc. -- and those that associate the word "qualitative" with an inductive (as opposed to deductive) style of generating hypotheses and theories. An instinctive criteria for most readers, that qualitative is word-based while quantitative is number-based data, holds for most sociologist's definitions; the dilemma arises in determining if this gathering of a particular style of data necessarily implies an inductive research process, and if this inductive process is synonymous with "feminist".

This debate is well illustrated by Bozzoli (1985; 1990; 1991), a South African researcher, and Risman (1993) who argue that methodologies and epistemologies don't determine each other. In contrast, Ribbens and Edwards (1995) and Kasper (1994) believe that they do. Risman (1993) offers a good starting point for this debate with her distinction between "feminist empiricism" and "feminist standpoint theory".

Risman writes that a feminist research perspective can be utilized with both quantitative/deductive methods (tacitly linked in her analysis) and qualitative/inductive methods, and that both are equally valid ways of conducting research. "Feminist empiricism" is the use of traditional methods to research feminist-oriented projects, while "standpoint theory" is a different type of work that emphasizes subjective understanding. Both of these approaches, she argues, can be used for feminist and non-feminist ends, and choosing one or the other does not determine the work's political content.

Risman disagrees with the argument, espoused by Ribbens and Edwards (1995) that qualitative/inductive methods are inherently less patriarchal and therefore more useful for the study of women. Risman believes that qualitative theory and methods are constructed in a patriarchal context just as much as qualitative methods, having arisen out of the same academic disciplines, so that one does not necessarily have a political superiority over the other (1993: 19).

Bozzoli (1985; 1990; 1991) would agree with this equal valuation of qualitative and quantitative methods for feminist studies, but would disagree with Risman that certain epistemologies and methodologies are linked. While her research in South Africa favors interview and life history data, she is deductive and traditional in the development of theories, following a more conventional Marxist notion of the process of good "science".

In contrast, Ribbens and Edwards (1995) emphasize more fundamental differences between qualitative/ inductive and quantitative/ deductive work (as with Risman, the two research components are linked in their analysis). In describing the nature of feminist research on women, Ribbens and Edwards posit that the style of the inductive, unstructured interview is a better way to get at "hidden" knowledge, which they would consider most of women's experiences to be. They describe the study of women's lives as the study of "everyday process", and that only through certain epistemological and methodological techniques can the researcher discover these "private ways of being" (1995: 252).

I disagree with these ideas on two fronts. The first is the resurrection of the "public-private" distinction, long a problem for social scientists of gender. It seems strange to me that in 1995 Ribbens and Edwards write about "the private sphere holding a particular meaning in relation to women's lives within domestic settings in industrialized Western societies" (1995: 251). The consensus of many sociologists is that the distinction between the public/male world and the private/female world was a Victorian creation, and one that does not accurately reflect the ways that most women spend their time in work and leisure, and indeed, even in the nineteenth century only reflected the lifestyles of the tiny upper class.

Ribbens and Edwards seem to believe that women's social world is fundamentally different from that of men, and that conventional research methods only measure phenomenon in the latter. While it is undoubtedly true that male biases exist in social science in everything from topic choice to study participants, the setting aside of certain methodologies as "suitable" for women seems to only reinforce this segregation.

If conventional methods and perspectives supposedly don't work for the feminist study of women, couldn't this also be taken to support the idea that traditional "science" is strictly a male sphere? If the study of women requires different and special research methods, could this reinforce the notion that women are not "scientific" or suitable subjects of science? While I agree with the overall goal of diversifying research perspectives to uncover aspects of women's lives that have been overlooked by traditional projects, I would disagree with Ribbens and Edwards' characterization that subjective, inductive styles are the only way to learn about women in a feminist manner.

The question remains of how these debates -- perpetually unresolved as they are -- can provide insight for the individual researcher. While I tend to be epistemologically traditional, favoring the deductive approach of classic "science", I would agree with Bozzoli that both quantitative and qualitative methods can be used in this format. Interviews, ethnographies, and life histories can be data in a traditional hypothesis-testing research project.

On the other hand, I would perhaps agree partially with Ribbens and Edwards that this classic deductive approach may not be the best for certain aspects of respondent's lives, particularly women, whose experiences may be cut off from traditional avenues and languages of "science". Where I would disagree with them, however, is in the notion that these studies of private, hidden, and domestic life are by definition female. I would advocate that both male and female study participants have social lives that are public and private, and each aspect can be accessed through appropriate ways of study.

Authorship, authority, and race

When a researcher attempts a qualitative project, one that incorporates subjective, open-ended, and narrative-based information, they inevitably run into questions of authorship. In the course of including study participants as active, empowered partners, a sociologist needs to establish some sort of useful boundaries between the speaker's authority and the interpreter's authority, between their words and ours. These problems arise in any qualitative research setting, but are especially relevant in the African context, among unique dynamics of political power and race.

The basic puzzle at the root of everything is this: who can know whom? While the quest for "authenticity" and a useful blend of respondent and writer's voices can be difficult even among researchers and researched of similar backgrounds, the study of Black Africans takes on a very politicized aspect when it is conducted by outsiders who are wealthy, white, and degreed. The question becomes not just "who can know whom?", but also "who wants to know?" and "what are the motives for this knowledge?"

Issues facing a white student of Black Africa are of two types: the more practical, nuts-and-bolts troubles of conducting research, and larger philosophical questions about race, oppression, and their intersections with sociology. To investigate some of the practical problems between a white researcher and an African community, I examine Bozzoli's book Women of Phokeng: Consciousness, Life Strategy, and Migrancy in South Africa, 1900-1983 (1991).

In Women of Phokeng, Bozzoli's research assistant Mmantho Nkotsoe interviewed elderly Black women about their life stories to create a gendered regional history. In that simple sentence lies one of the most interesting and troublesome facts about the book: why, if Nkotsoe conducted every interview, is she listed on the book's cover under "with the assistance of" and her voice absent from the text? Here, the problem of authorship has been further complicated by the addition of another person, the research assistant.

Conflicts between research assistants, interviewers, graduate students and their supervising professors are nothing new: what is unique here in the African context are the added dimensions of race and language differences in the author-researcher-subject triangle. While having Nkotsoe, a local of the area and native Setswana speaker, conduct the interviews had the superficial appearance of convenience and cultural sensitivity, it also further complicated the ethical questions about white sociology in Black Africa.

Bozzoli and many of her readers applauded her decision to use a Black woman, one who was a native of Phokeng and spoke the respondent's language as her first language, as her interviewer. The benefits range from easier access into a society of the same racial background, lack of language barrier, to Nkotsoe playing the role of a young woman needing education about "the old days" by a grandmotherly figure from her community.

These factors, while undoubtedly bringing Nkotsoe closer to the respondents, further distances Bozzoli from them. The advantage of having a "native informant" -- or fairly native, since Nkotsoe was distant from the respondents in terms of wealth and education -- is diminished by the fact that Bozzoli never had contact with any of the people her book is about. This removal from the research site increases the social distance between the author and the community they're studying. Ironically, it is Bozzoli, who never met the Phokeng women, who is considered the "author", not Nkotsoe. Along with authorship, too, comes authority: tenure, royalties, and recognition.

Arguably, in any context, this distance between the researcher and their subject makes for simply bad sociology; in the context of South Africa it can also send the message to Blacks that they're just not worth the effort for white academics to leave their office. This is made additionally sticky by the fact that Bozzoli is a South African native, and has researched Setswana speakers all her career, but does not speak the language. In a situation where she wished to be culturally and linguistically sensitive, she also cultivated an aura of standoffish power around the white researcher over her Black assistant and Black interviewees.

To be fair to Bozzoli, however, issues of cultural and language difference are not easy to address in research. As Hassim and Walker (1993) write, the fundamental divisions of race and class may overreach any tangible considerations of who does interviews and who writes books. By articulating different points of view from academics and women's rights activists at a Conference on Women and Gender in South Africa, Hassim and Walker pose many difficult broader questions about "who can know whom".

A basic dichotomy set up in Hassim and Walker's work is that between Black exclusivist and non-racial schools of research on Africa. The first position argues that only Black African women can write fairly and authentically about Black African women, that only experience and similarity of background ensures a non-oppressive research relationship between the sociologist and the community. The latter viewpoint states that race only offers superficial notions of sameness, and unfairly homogenizes the class and ethnicity differences that exist within Black communities. In a plural society like South Africa -- eleven official languages now recognized -- it is misleading to create bipolar distinctions between simply "white" and "black".

While racial differences between social researchers and respondents are among the most obvious variables in the "who can know whom" question, these issues also point to the larger concept of the "insider" versus "outsider" perspective on a people. Is experience in a community the best or only way to gain a useful perspective on it? Or does a culture/race/language/class "outsider" bring in fresh perspectives not biased by everyday life within the practices studied? This is a question that has puzzled social researchers since the days of classic anthropological studies.

As illustrated by Women of Phokeng, categories of cultural insider and outsider are many-faceted. While Nkotsoe may have been the same color as her interviewees, how much comradeship and understanding does this necessarily bestow? As a graduate student, she was distanced from the poor, rural life known by her elderly participants both geographically and culturally. She had been educated in English-speaking institutions and lived in cities modeled on a white, European colonist ideal, and was writing about women who had spent their lives in farm and domestic labor, many of whom were non-literate in any language.

The basic irony is that in any study of oppressed peoples -- here defined broadly as the poor, ethnic minorities, the handicapped, persons disadvantaged on any front -- a researcher is by definition an elite, much separated from these communities even if they are or were a member of these communities on some level. Nkotsoe was a Black South African woman like her interviewees, and therefore they had experiences in common, but she could not in any way be said to have lived a life culturally similar to theirs. Likewise, for example, a poor American who goes to graduate school and returns to study their former neighborhoods will forever be removed from them due to the elite ecosystem of the university and the privileges it bestows.

This difference between academics and non-academics, the power differentials between those who study and those who are studied, exists in any environment and any country, even when the participants are much the same social background as the researcher. This is further exacerbated in the South African context in which power differentials between academics and non-academics are entrenched along racial as well as degree lines. Not only are sociologists "outsiders" from the standpoint of credentialization, but the fact that the vast majority of them are also members of the privileged racial minority further distances them from equal relationships with Black African communities.

One of the conference participants asked the question most pointedly:

"Can an oppressed nation or segment of it, engaged in a struggle for liberation from its oppressors, rely on knowledge produced, researched, and theorized by others, no matter how progressive, who are members of the oppressor nation?" (Hassim and Walker 1993: 525).

This position, while undoubtedly true on some level, automatically invokes its opposite. It could also be construed as another form of racism to assume that a researcher's ethnicity automatically informs the quality of their work. Hassim and Walker offer the alternative idea that:

"those who are critical of the scholarship produced by white or non-African academics about black women have to demonstrate where it is wrong, rather than merely invoke the author' color as a self-explanatory weakness" (1993: 531).

Clearly, solutions to these dilemmas do not easily present themselves. I tend to agree more with the second quotation, that white researchers of Black Africa can not be peremptorily dismissed, but I also acknowledge the predisposition of work produced by elites to preserve the status quo.

In South Africa, perhaps the best improvement for the future of sociology is simply expanding the ranks of universities to include more African students, researchers, and professors, to increase the multiplicity of research voices to include "insiders", "outsiders", and all the social worlds in between. This is easier said than done, but is infinitely more reachable a goal under the new integrationist government. Of course, removing racial boundaries to academia does not alleviate the poverty that keeps a diverse student and professor body at bay, but under the reforms of democratization we can hope that access to education can only improve on every front.

My critique of Bozzoli's work also offers practical research suggestions. The first and foremost is the learning of African languages as a point of entry into their respective cultures. I fully support the idea that interviews should be conducted in the first language of the respondent, and that the author(s) of the final text should be as well versed as possible in this language. Arguably, a non-native speaker can never approach the fluency of a native speaker, but a white sociologist's attempt to learn and speak an African language can only bring them closer to study participants. To bridge the fluency gap, research teams could be established between white and African sociologists; for example, if Bozzoli and Nkotsoe had conducted interviews jointly. Even if Bozzoli had simply been present, not knowing a word of Setswana, she would at least have sent the message that she was personally interested in these women's lives.

Ethics: What is the purpose of sociology?

The issue of the absent white author raises ethical questions about the end products of social research. Bozzoli reaped rewards from the publication of her book without having personal contact with the community or individual women it described. This projects the image of the academic as distant, as one who makes their career with little involvement with their populations of study. At best morally neutral, this position could potentially become exploitive. Do we "enjoy the luxury of research, but thrive on black disadvantage" for our "publications and promotions" (Hassim and Walker 1993: 526,529)?

The other alternative, of academic as activist, is equally problematic. Bozzoli (1990) and Kasper (1994) offer two different philosophies of how and why activism can be accomplished. Bozzoli, in many ways a classic Marxist, views academics as participants in class liberation struggles. By bringing academic perspectives to the masses, social researchers can aid in the self-education of oppressed peoples.

This view is difficult for me on two fronts. For one, it's condescending; without using Marx's term "false consciousness", this perspective of academic as political liberator nonetheless has overtones of the scholar's duty to impart the wisdom of oppression on the less insightful proletariat. Secondly, this philosophy seems contradictory. If the academic aids in the overthrow of elites, what happens to them when universities are egalitarian and credentials meaningless? This is illustrated by Bozzoli's (1990) description of an "open history" conference she helped to organize.

The intent of the conference was to provide fora for papers, films, speakers, plays, and other forms of expressing a people's history of South Africa. It was to be totally open to all, not just academics, and they tried to create a multi-class atmosphere of participation. Bozzoli lauds this accomplishment, but becomes uneasy when the "people" seem to be taking over the proceedings a little too much and change the programs and event agendas. Although beginning from the position of devaluing the academic's authority, the conference organizers seem to have established limits on just how devalued that authority is allowed to be. Perhaps they realized that if the goal of professor as liberator is achieved, many of their class and credential benefits will be obsolete.

Kasper (1994) takes a less political and more personal approach to the activist role of the sociologist. Although not working specifically with Africans, her view of good social research as advocacy offers a good comparison to Bozzoli's perspective. Kasper uses terms like "consciousness raising", "ethic of caring", and "I attempt to meet her [respondent's] needs" (1994: 263, 268, 270). This is the language of therapy, and poses the question if therapy is or should be a goal of social research.

Research on women will almost always have a political, emancipatory angle, particularly projects which attempt to uncover subjective and previously understudied aspects of women's lives. Kasper's position, however, blurs the lines between academic researcher, psychotherapist, and biographer. While a sociologist, of course, would always aspire to be close to their respondents, this converse of being a deeply committed advocate is not without its problems.

Sociologists are (conventionally) not trained in therapy and processes of psychological healing; if an investigator seems to make these sorts of promises to respondents, study participants could be left high and dry wondering from where these supports and emotional benefits will come. To transpose this to the African context, adopting the position of therapist for one's study participants is more problematic. Western feminist concepts of advocacy, emancipation, and consciousness-raising may have little resonance in rural Africa, in communities where American-style feminism is, at best, inappropriate and at worst, viewed as a colonial imposition.

Kasper's work also crosses lines between academic and non-academic writing. She describes a situation in her research in which a respondent asked to be given the tape recorder so she could continue talking and conduct her own interview without Kasper. Interestingly, Kasper takes this to be "a direct compliment on my interviewing technique" (1994: 272). What then, is the boundary between social research and autobiography? If a respondent alone with a tape recorder constitutes an "interview", why do we even need the sociologist? Here, Kasper would argue that part of being a fair, feminist researcher is to make one's voice as silent as possible.

This connects us back to debates about authorship. In this interview situation, like Bozzoli's with the Phokeng women, Kasper's involvement is very minimal, yet she still reaps authorship benefits. While Kasper sees her non-invasive style as politically sensitive, I would argue that it's also politically dangerous; she like Bozzoli gets publication and recognition for work that she had less input in producing. To me, this is more of an unbalanced power relationship between studier and studied than the traditional context of having an interviewer present during the interview. In the latter situation, the researcher can be involved, interested, and responsible for the proceedings.


This analysis has hopefully highlighted interesting and relevant questions for the qualitative researcher, but can not offer, unfortunately, any quick or definite solutions. Primary debates about what constitutes qualitative research epistemologies, methods, and political orientations remain unresolved, and the best that a writer can do is make conscious choices for each appropriate to their project at hand. Ideally, a social researcher would be versed in several different investigation styles, and could access data through traditional and non-traditional routes. If definitions of what is "qualitative", "inductive" and "feminist" remain cloudy, sociologists have an obligation to make clear to their readers their own usages of the terms.

The authorship of qualitative work with active participants remains problematic, especially in African contexts where white researchers have racial and class power over their Black respondents. As illustrated by Bozzoli's Women of Phokeng, it is not easy to strike a balance between gaining access to a community (delegating research tasks to African assistants) and being an involved author and doing the interviews yourself. My best recommendation is for non-African sociologists to learn the language of their population of interest, and integrate themselves as fully as possible into the interview process. To do otherwise is to send politically ambiguous messages about the author's priorities and commitment to the community of study.

Debates about the role of sociologists and their work also continue. Kasper's (1994) characterization of an almost-absent researcher, and her position of sociologist as advocate blurs divisions between social research, psychotherapy, and biography. In contrast, Bozzoli's philosophy is one of sociologist as Marxist political activist. In the quest for emancipatory, feminist knowledge about the social world, however, I believe we must treat sociological theories and information as what they are: sociological theories and information, not programs of therapy or political platforms.

This is not to diminish the empowering and maybe even revolutionary potential of insightful qualitative research, but a sociologist's obligations are to produce that research, not to counsel respondents or develop governments. To blur boundaries between psychology, political activism, and literature is to detract from and muddle the strengths of sociological tools of understanding: data gathering, analysis, and theorization. These tools must work with the realms of politics and psychology to better develop a feminist agenda, but can not replace them.


Bozzoli, Belinda. 1985. "Migrant women and South African social change: Biographical approaches to social analysis." Pp. 87-96 in African Studies, 44 (1).

Bozzoli, Belinda. 1990. "Intellectuals, audiences, and histories: South African experiences, 1978-88." Pp. 237-263 in the Radical History Review, 46 (7).

Bozzoli, Belinda and Mmantho Nkotsoe. 1991. Women of Phokeng: Consciousness, Life Strategy, and Migrancy in South Africa, 1900-1983. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Hassim, Shireen and Cherryl Walker. 1993. "Women's studies and the women's movement in South Africa: Defining a relationship." Pp. 523-534 in the Women's

Studies International Forum, 16 (5).

Kasper, Anne S. 1994. "A feminist, qualitative methodology: A study of women with breast cancer." Pp. 263-281 in Qualitative Sociology, 17 (3).

Ribbens, Jane and Rosalind Edwards. 1995. "Introducing qualitative research on women in families and households." Pp. 247-258 in the Women's Studies International Forum, 18 (3).

Risman, Barbara A. 1993. "Methodological implications of feminist scholarship." Pp. 15-25 in The American Sociologist, 24 (3,4).

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Qualitative research: A body divided against itself?

Cora Moore & Teria Shantall

Department of Psychology, University of South Africa

The concise Oxford English dictionary defines "body politic" as : "a similarly organized system". If the body we are talking about is the body of qualitative research, we need to ask whether this body is indeed a similarly organized system or whether dissimilarities within the body are not in fact dividing the body against itself and allowing it to become a-body politic or anti body politic. This division could exist on two levels: 1) Division between the quantitative and qualitative research bodies within the larger body of psychological research; and 2) Division between the different qualitative body parts. The discussion of these divisory stands within the body politic of psychological research will be illustrated in terms of a qualitative study into the meaning of suffering among Holocaust survivors.

The division between the qualitative and quantitative bodies within the larger body of psychological research.

Here we are talking about the battle between "old" and "new paradigm" research. On the one hand we are dealing with the positivistic paradigm of modernity, at the core of which lies the belief in a knowable, objective, manipulable and fixed reality, a world that, in the discovery of its universal laws or basic working principles, will eventually bend the knee to the expertise and knowhow of the scientist. On the other hand we have those who propagate new paradigm research according to which we need to move into the domain of uncertainty where truth eludes us (Polkinghorne, 1982). Where university becomes multiversity and different realities can co-exist. Where measurement, prediction and control is no longer the focus, but a stage is set for stories to be told through the voice of the researcher. Where meaningful dialogue is sought through co-involvement of researcher and research participants and the result is a new democracy between the investigator, the informant and the phenomena of research (Taylor, 1990).

In the study of the meaning of suffering among Holocaust survivors we were struck by the way in which the Holocaust reflects the culmination of modernist thinking, but also echoes the disillusionment of the postmodern era with the beliefs underlying such thinking. In his work "Modernity and the Holocaust" Bauman (1989) translates the scientific idealism of the day into the will to power that earmarked a movement like Nazism. The scientific stance of the modern era which emphasized pure rationality and freedom from "contamination" by emotive and moral involvement in the object of study, was uncannily reflected in the SS slogan - Eiskalt - cold-blooded murder with no investment of emotive factors (Bauer, 1987). On the other hand, the horror of the Holocaust left mankind disillusioned with any ideology or utopian dream of mastery of the world - a disillusionment shared by post-modern thinking. Its research stance being extremely sceptical of a science that propagates this belief through increased knowhow, power and control and instead embraces uncertainty and incompleteness (Kvale, 1994).

Perhaps one would like to ponder the idea of the belief systems which have governed and are presently governing thinking in the South Africa context.

The dangers of polarisation

Those of us who position ourselves within the body of qualitative research would probably agree on the dangers involved in taking an extreme modernistic stance, but have we thought of the dangers of an extreme qualitative stance in which we take up the fight against the positivistic part of the research body? A fear of contamination with the rigidity of the positivistic stance can lead qualitative researchers to strive for an openness and non-prescriptive stance which no longer serves the body of knowledge. It is our contention that the new or younger body should acknowledge its Newtonian roots and the value of these roots, lest it be compared to the rebellious child who wishes to gain independence by trying to behave in ways contrary to that of the parent, whilst in actuality displaying many of the very characteristics of the parent and perhaps desperately needing these roots to survive. The very principles of openness and inclusiveness underlying new paradigm research would of course disallow such exclusion. It is our contention that we need to move away from the dogma of any extreme stance to a level beyond polarisation where the nature of the research phenomena and the sincere wish to serve the body of knowledge becomes the focus.

The division between the different qualitative body parts

Different qualitative approaches, for example, the phenomenological, the heuristic, hermeneutical and constructivist approaches are all parts of the qualitative research body. The danger of rigid divisions between these body parts seems to be relevant as well.

The study of the meaning of suffering among Holocaust survivors was originally typified as a phenomenological study with heuristic and hermeneutic underpinnings and had to be changed to a heuristic study with phenomenological and hermeneutic underpinnings. The reason for the change being necessitated by the criticism that a phenomenological research approach does not allow one to enter into the research context with any preconceived ideas, whereas a heuristic approach allows the researcher to explore the phenomenon through the pathways of his or her own soul.

Of course we learnt that when positioning yourself in the body of qualitative research it is important to move beyond labels and rather not 'name your child' as the phenomena dealt with by new paradigm research very seldom allow one to use only some parts of the body.

However, we need to ask whether the 'identity' of the different parts of the qualitative body could perhaps be attributed to the way in which they liaise with the old paradigm? Are some parts of the child perhaps portraying the very prescriptiveness of the old paradigm parent in insisting on being theoretical unbiased and steering clear of anything that smacks of pre-set hypotheses based on some set theory about the phenomenon in question? Fearing to be indoctrinated by theory, new paradigm researchers, for example, choose to do a literature survey at a point near the end of the research, and not at the beginning, where it might act to predispose and predetermine or colour the researcher's awareness (Moustakas, 1971). However, in the present study it was the research participants themselves who insisted on exactly the opposite.

One survivor told the researcher that he had been approached by a young student to be interviewed. He asked her how much she knew about the Holocaust. "Virtually nothing", she replied. "Well then you have no right to interview me", he said as he politely showed her the door.

The survivors see ignorance about the Holocaust as indicative of a woeful ignorance about the history of the world we live in, and to their mind, means lack of understanding. In fact, the main thrust of the Holocaust survivors' organization, the She'erith Hapletah (which means : the surviving remnant) is to disseminate knowledge about the Holocaust and to fight the battle of prejudice based on ignorance.

However, it is also important to note that the dehumanizing experiences of the survivors in the concentration and death camps, have made the survivors super-sensitive to any form of experimental research. An example will illustrate this.

A questionnaire had been sent out by a research organization based in New York to survivors worldwide relating to their experiences during the Holocaust. This provoked angry responses from the research participants. "How dare they! To be treated like a statistic, we who were made objects of experimentation in the Nazi death camps". One survivor angrily pulled up her sleeve to show the number tattooed on her forearm. "I was nothing but a number, see! ..."

This reminds us of Maslow's words: 'If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail' (Maslow, 1966, p. x).

Choosing an approach for a specific context

In view of the foregoing discussion it seems important for the qualitative researcher to move beyond prescription and division onto a level where participant and researcher can converse about the research phenomena in a manner suited to the specific context.

In seeking to do research involving survivors, the employment of any uniform method or specific technique seemed inappropriate. What was required was a sensitive and discerning personal involvement of the researcher with the survivors in order to re-create a full and complete depiction of the lived experience. The phenomenon was researched, not only from within the context or framework of the research participants, but also from within the life world of the researcher. The focus was on the interplay of meaning in the joint exploration into and discourse about the phenomenon in question (Moustakas, 1985).

The study on the meaning of suffering among Holocaust survivors posed very specific problems for the researcher. Whilst the research phenomenon clearly asked for a qualitative research approach, this approach mitigated against a literature survey before the period of interviewing, whilst it was clear that respect for the survivors would be shown in being intelligently informed on the subject of the Holocaust before trying to elicit the survivors' participation in research.

We decided to move beyond the paradox and therefore beyond the notion that it is possible to turn the mind of the qualitative researcher into a tabularasa - a notion which, as we pointed out earlier on, represents an extreme emphasis on openness, but at the same time smacks of old paradigm thinking!)..

This reminds one of Scott Peck's words about the American people which could certainly also apply to South Africans: "Perhaps the greatest problem in this country is how 5 percent who comprehend paradox can communicate with the 95 percent who don't" (Peck, 1995, p. 371).

On the level beyond the paradox an unbiased approach becomes possible. This approach represents a state of preparedness or openness of mind that can only be achieved through a great deal of intelligent contemplation on and an in-depth study of the nature of the phenomenon to be studied, plus a willingness to be led into whatever avenue may reveal more about the subject and enable the researcher to have a better grasp of the phenomenon.

In the present research this resulted in an intensive study of the works and experience of famous Holocaust survivors such as Viktor Frankl, Elie Wiesel, Bruno Bettelheim, Katzetnik and others. Several visits to the Yad Vashem or Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, the biggest archive on Holocaust documentation in the world, were undertaken: its courses attended; apart from an immersion into the literature of the Holocaust itself. Holocaust scholars themselves testify to the importance of holding one's mind in the fires of the Holocaust long enough for it to be purified, that is, freed from the false presuppositions and vanities of thought (Kren & Rappoport, 1980). This was personally experienced by the researcher when she spent several months struggling through the monumental documentary on the Holocaust written by the historian, Martin Gilbert (1986). As Staub (1989) contends, the struggle of survivors implicates everyone who has any dealings with them and so the researcher also had to be prepared to be scrutinized by questions of conscience.

It doesn't seem to be significant whether the researcher has any hypotheses or presuppositions about the phenomenon of research, or does a literature study before the research phase or not. What does matter is the way in which the literature survey is used. Depending on how a literature survey is done, it need not instill prejudice but can open up the researcher's mind by removing the obstacles of ignorance and lack of understanding. It can break down stereotypical ways of perceiving, reveal presuppositions that the researcher may not even have been aware of. It can shock the researcher into new ways of thinking and feeling; sensitize him or her to the research issue at hand.

Conclusion: working towards a body politic in psychological research.

We came to the realization that old and new paradigm researchers are making too much of their differences - that they are disagreeing on issues where there should be agreement and causing a blurring of those issues which do distinguish them.

The point we wish to make is that the method must dialogue with the content (Frankl, 1974; Giorgi, 1970; Keen, 1975; Kelly, 1969; Kruger, 1987; Mahoney, 1981; Maslow, 1972; May, 1965; Moustakas, 1990; Polanyi, 1969; Reason & Rowan, 1981; Rogers, 1985; Romanyshyn, 1971; Schurink, 1988; Taylor, 1990; Valle & King, 1978; Van Kaam, 1966; Von Eckartsberg, 1986). Whatever our research persuasions, we are all dealing with psychological realities which we study in an intensive, rigorous and systematic way. Our differences are merely in terms of positioning. From positivistic and experimental (quantitative) methodologies dealing with human phenomena on a more discernable or accessible level, new paradigm research approaches dealing with phenomena of a more complex or abstract nature. There is an interesting shift in the following: from the more objective to the more subjective; from the tangible to the intangible; from the concrete to the abstract; from the observational to the experiential; from the manipulable to the revelatory; from calculative to meditative thinking; from closure to openness; from certainty to uncertainty; from independence to dependence; from neutrality to commitment.

We contend that these different research stances are all legitimate and should be recognized as such. We are scientists to the degree that we are attuned to the specific nature of the data or phenomena of our different fields of research. What distinguishes us are the subtle but all the more dramatic changes in our particular phenomena of study, which if we are scientists, we should be dedicated to and led by. We may change in the tenure of hardness and softness, but stay alike in our rigour, exactitude and precision, which in the case of quantitative methodologies are expressed in terms of measurement and in the case of qualitative methodologies in terms of understanding.

What we as qualitative researchers sometimes fail to recognize is the fact that, dealing with phenomena of human experience and understanding, with the inner mental grasp of basically spiritual matter, we are entering domains where rigidity should soften; boundaries of difference should dissolve; a change from dogmatic stances of mutual exclusiveness to stances of interdependence and awe in the face of truths that are bigger than ourselves should occur. We are dealing with the flow of a process and with relatedness rather than with stipulated steps of prescribed technique. In the body of qualitative research we should move away from closure, specific technique, discernable differences, exact procedure, a stepping on another's methodological toes, without sacrificing discipline, dedication, commitment, rigour and integrity.

We need harmony between rigour and imagination. And perhaps we might experience what Maslow (1966, p. 147) spoke about when he said:

"One can love science even though it is not perfect, just as one can love one's wife even though she is not perfect. And, fortunately, for just a moment and as an unexpected and undeserved reward they sometimes do become perfect and take our breath away".


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Hayek, F.A. (1951). The counter-revolution of science. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

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Keen, E. (1975). A primer in phenomenological psychology. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Kelly, G.A. (1969). Humanistic methodology in psychological research. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 11(1), 53-65.

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Kvale, S. (1994). Psychology and postmodernism. London: Sage Publications.

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Department of Psychology

University of South Africa

PO Box 392



User guidelines for research methodology in the social sciences: An ecosystemic theoretical perspective

Carina Fiedeldey-Van Dijk

Department of Psychology, University of Pretoria

Although the academic value of research methodology is seldom disputed, it is generally known that research methodology is not perceived as accessible by many social scientists and students. The assumption is made that a theoretical reconceptualisation of identified themes within the context of social-science research methodology, as derived from an extensive computerised, international literature study, will be useful. By using the Delphi technique as an ecosystemic method to provide empirical results, the themes will be explored to develop guidelines for the marketing and application of research methodology in training and in practice. This project has implications for tertiary curricula in research methodology, as well as the marketing thereof, both in academia and in practice.

Physics and the humanities were developed simultaneously by sir Isaac Newton and John Locke more or less during the 17th century and on the same philosophical basis. It was not until the late 19th century that a formal programme was proposed for generally applying the scientific method to the study of social and human sciences. The rules of science were applied equally to studies in the physical sciences and in human behaviour.

Researchers' reliance on empirical data, reason and scientific laws to describe, explain, declare and predict phenomena is often called positivism. According to the positivistic philosophical viewpoint, scientific laws are recognisable either through fundamentalism, or more readily through empirical research.

Yet, idealistic researchers argue with a counter-approach: Since the method and contents of science are the products of human thought, reality and truth cannot be found 'out there', as positivists assume, but are made up by the researchers themselves. Reality does not exist independently of our minds, but depends on the constituting activities of our minds.

The social and human sciences, and the methodological problems therein, can be seen as ranging on a continuum where demography and cultural anthropology fall toward the two extremes, with sociology, psychology and education placed somewhere in between. These middle-position disciplines tend to rely on quantitative surveys and methods, although recently qualitative research methods are used increasingly.

An either-or approach towards quantity and quality in research methodology continues to receive support and stimulate debate, and also motivates and guides many researchers in their work. When you have time to glance at Table 1 that was handed out to you at the beginning of the session, I am sure that the issues stated in the table on either side are not new to you. I will come back to some of these issues a bit later.

For now, I would like to remark that the split between the two approaches still pervades the social and human sciences. Many considerations and objections have been raised against both sides in the past years. It is not sure whether this debate will ever end as long as the luxury of research can be afforded. But should it end? The debate certainly sharpens the researcher's awareness of both the advantages and disadvantages of the two approaches. But on the other hand, perhaps this dualism also contributes to the unpopular image of research methodology today.

This is my concern:

  • How can the image of research methodology in the social sciences be improved?

  • What should be included in tertiary curricula in order to optimise formal training in research methodology?

  • What activities do effective research methodologists occupy themselves with?

    Questions like these need an empirical study of international proportions. Before I embark on the launching of the project, it is necessary to briefly state some problems that led to this project. Although the academic value of research methodology is seldom disputed, it is generally known that research methodology is not perceived as accessible by many social scientists and students. Most textbooks on research methodology for the social sciences take special care to place the value of this field in context, and motivate readers not to become discouraged by its content.

    Despite this, the stigma attached to research methodology largely remains. Why is research methodology experienced as being inaccessible?

    Firstly, the circumstances in which research methodology are usually introduced and presented are not always ideal - when needed, the situation frequently already is a crisis, and when formally provided, it often forms part of another training course such as psychology, sociology or education, and then the subject matter appears to be very theoretical and technical.

    Secondly, practicalities such as the heterogeneity within the group receiving formal training might produce problems. Not all the people have the same level of mathematical insight, which is further hampered by the group size to which research methodology is presented.

    Many researchers react to these problems by side-stepping them in some way or other. For example, researchers are often perceived to withdraw from the respective application fields they were originally trained in. They are sometimes labelled as being different, having little contact with people or reality, being too computer-bound, labelling and reducing people and maintaining the mystique of research. These labels are certainly not new.

    Over the last few decades people within the social sciences have come to passively accept this situation, believing "that's how it is; there's nothing to be done about it". Do you know of any one in the social sciences who has actively worked to change the situation and image of research methodology? The current image of research methodology does the social sciences no good, and needs to be understood and eventually altered. This is the purpose of this international research project, which can be divided into a theoretical and an empirical part.

    The theoretical part of this research is characterised by the following assumption: A theoretical reconceptualisation of identified themes within the context of research methodology in the social sciences will be useful.

    For this purpose, as a first step an extensive computerised, international literature survey has been conducted on an ongoing basis since 1989, resulting in approximately 1 500 references (mainly in English) that have recently been published, either as a book, or as an article. The initial focus is broad so as not to limit two researchers (who work independently to establish interrater reliability) in their activities.

    In the first procedure of analysis the titles of these references have been studied within an ecosystemic-epistemological perspective by means of formal content analysis, based on the latest work of Miles and Huberman. The purpose of this analysis was to build a complex matrix of categorical and classified themes. The matrix basically works as follows: On a horizontal level, the categories represent the diversity of aspects that research methodologists work with and write about. On a vertical level, the classes denote some hierarchy in which the various aspects are dealt with. Naturally a single reference source simultaneously can occur more than once in the matrix of themes. The matrix is continuously updated with the latest references picked up by weekly literature surveys.

    Secondly, the matrix of themes will then be refined by analysing the abstracts of a further 20% of the references made available by the literature study. This procedure of first-order analysis will stimulate and form the basis for the empirical part of the research.

    Based on the same assumption as stated earlier, here the emphasis will be placed on an empirical reconceptualisation of the identified themes by using the Delphi technique as an ecosystemic method.

    Delphi is a group process which utilises written responses as opposed to bringing individuals together. It is a means of aggregating the ideas of a number of individuals in order to improve the quality of decision making. Because Delphi does not require face-to-face contact, it is particularly useful for involving experts, users, resource controllers, or administrators who cannot come together physically. Delphi allows people to remain anonymous, but prevents domination by certain individuals.

    Delphi is essentially a series of questionnaires, where each subsequent questionnaire is built upon responses to the preceding questionnaire with increasing structure. The process stops when consensus has been reached among participants, or when sufficient information has been obtained.

    If you are interested in participating in this international research project, or know of any users of, experts, resource controllers, or administrators in research methodology who would be interested in participating, then please fill in an invitation form and put the tear-off slip with your contact particulars in the envelope provided after this session.

    This invitation to participate is valid until 30 September 1996. Thereafter the process of data gathering will commence. We assume that a series of three questionnaires will be sufficient to complete the project. In order to allow for possible postal delays (although we prefer communication via e-mail or telefax), each questionnaire will be sent out in a different month. The only requirements for participation are that participants must complete the whole series of questionnaires, and return it within the set target dates. Thus participants must set time (approximately 45 minutes per month, but it may vary) aside to complete and return one questionnaire each in October, November, December and possibly January 1997. The success of the data-gathering phase largely depends on the co-operation of the participants! It would be greatly appreciated if participants could complete and return the questionnaire on the same day of receipt to help ensure that the data gathering proceeds smoothly.

    We undertake to acknowledge all participants in the final report, unless not desired. A copy of the report will be made available to the participants if requested. As your opinion will aid in reaching the goals of this project, we hope that you will be interested in and find time to participate.

    Pre-selected control characteristics will be used to ensure a high standard for quota sampling, chosen to enhance international contributions. The same procedure of first-order analysis that was applied to the literature, will be performed on the results of each phase of the Delphi technique. Second-order and third-order analysis will be performed on all the results as far as possible. The steps are as follows:

    First-order analysis, which entails

    Exploration, addressing the question of what, and where we basically label the units of meaning and the categories.

    Step 1: Familiarisation of the topic

    Step 2: Drawing of distinctions and labelling of units of meaning

    Step 3: Labelling of categories

    Step 4: Establishment of reliability and validity of categories

    Second-order analysis, where we look at Description, addressing the question of how, by basically labelling and describing pattern categories.

    Step 1: Development and labelling of pattern categories

    Step 2: Description of pattern categories

    Step 3: Establishment of acceptance of pattern categories

    Third-order analysis, where we will deal with Explanation, addressing the question of why by having a conceptual discussion of the pattern categories.

    Step 1: Conceptual discussion

    From the analyses the identified themes from both the theoretical and empirical parts of the research will be explored to develop guidelines for use in tertiary curricula, as well as for the marketing and application of research methodology in practice.

    Now that the empirical research project has been dealt with on a first-order level, let us consider the processes involved in the project. In other words, let us look at what lies behind the scene, from a second-order point of view.

    In terms of the quantity-quality debate and the handout that was given to you at the beginning of the session, I would like to argue that social-science research methodologists of both approaches are concerned with the same issues, although they may employ different terms to describe these issues. For example, quantitative researchers concern themselves with ensuring validity and reliability through various quantifiable measures of construct, content, coherence, etcetera, and computations of the appropriate coefficients. Compare this to the qualitative researcher's concern for data accuracy and verification through social agreement, consensus and correspondence.

    Many more such examples appear in Table 1.

    Criticisms are being directed at methods when it is really the paradigmatic world view that is under attack. No matter what side of, or where in Table 1 one's affinity lies, at its basis lies the one question of what is to count as knowledge. When probing for the answer to this question, we become aware of the basis for the authority of our knowledge.

    Some of the existing problems regarding research methodology can be avoided by substituting the quantity-quality debate with the concept of structure. The term structure means formal and systematic organisation. In the Oxford English Dictionary structure is defined as "the mutual relation of the constituent parts or elements of a whole as determining its peculiar nature or character". The presence of structure implies that, on a paradigmatic level, some hierarchy or relationship or pattern is present in research methodology.

    All research methods are structured to some degree, whether quantitative or qualitative in nature. There is no simple dichotomy between quantitative and qualitative methods. Rather, there is a continuum on which a variety of different methods may be located with varying degrees of structure. However, one should be careful not to view the presence of structure as a frequency count. In such a case the concept of structure will be a mere substitution of the quantity-quality debate; just more of the same thing, another name for the same problem.

    What is important, is what one does with the structure that is present within research methodology, how one sees the hierarchy, the relationship, or the pattern within research methodology. The notion of structure in this way captures the complexity of methodological practice. This indicates that the gap between quantity and quality as stated in Table 1 is trivial.

    Within this paradigm it is possible to blend the two traditional perspectives quite successfully. The complexity of a phenomenon under study is intercepted when both perspectives are used integratively. The research method does not stand in isolation from the research process. Theory, data-gathering methods and data analysis stand in a reciprocal relationship to each other. A researcher cannot effectively gather data without a thorough consideration and accommodation of the data analysis which will follow, and the theory on which the research is based.

    Good researchers do not begin with a theory, then prove or probe it empirically. Rather, they begin with a phenomenon - that is, a problem, a question. The applied research method should ideally arise from the requirements of the specific phenomenon under study, and then fitted into the theory, paradigm, research context, format and analysis technique of the researcher's choice. The link or fit between these research parts of a sound project is the nature of the structure (and not the degree of structure) that is present in each of them. Let us go back to the empirical study discussed earlier:

    Table 2 deals with the nature of the structure that is present in both the theoretical and empirical parts of the research project. Firstly, the assumption that a reconceptualisation of research methodology into identified themes will be useful, either from published works, or from responding in Delphi style, gives an arbitrary starting point and specific structure to the project.

    Initially the gathering and analysis of the data is and will be done deductively - in the beginning the focus is broad so as not to limit the type of references or the participants' responses, beginning with a general question, working towards a point where consensus will be reached. The identification of themes (or categories of themes) implies that it is the researchers who create and give meaning to the various research units that were or will be made available. The conceptual discussion of the pattern categories gives an inductive approach to the data analysis. Thus the structure within the data analysis can be visually compared with an hourglass.

    Since the first research question addresses the what of research methodology through the identification of themes, the analysis is on a first-order level. The how and why questions will be dealt with on higher-order levels of analysis, where structure will be looked at as hierarchies, relationships and patterns, together with an awareness of where the researchers stand in all this. These results will be used to develop the user guidelines needed for tertiary curricula and the marketing of research methodology.

    It is my sincere hope that not only the content of this international project, but also the working procedure as explained to you, will contribute to solving some of the problems that are experienced with research methodology in the social sciences today.

    Table 2 Structure within the research project

    Theoretical part Empirical part
    Assumption: Reconceptualisation of themes
    Identified from literature Identified from Delphi responses
    Deductive and inductive gathering and analysis of data
    Beginning with a broad focus, building a matrix of themes that is refined by analy-sing 20% of the abstracts Beginning with a general question, working towards a situation where consensus is reached on specific issues
    Ending with a selection of references that includes a conceptual discussion of metho-dological contributions from authors' spe-cific research Ending with a conceptual discussion with selected participants regarding research methodology as indicated with the matrix of themes
    Level of analysis: First order, addressing the question of what

    The focus is on the identification of themes (and categories of themes)

    Second-order and third-order analysis:

    Addressing the questions of how and why

    Looking at least at order, relationships, patterns

    Using the structure that is created within the research results

    to develop user guidelines for:

  • Tertiary curricula

  • Marketing and application of research methodology in practice

  • Table 1 Attributes of quantitative and qualitative approaches

    Quantitative Qualitative
    A Cartesian orientation is adopted; isolation of parts that can be linked through causes and effects so that the whole equals the sum of its parts (first-order factors), interactive parts (second-order factors, etcetera) and a residue (error factor) A systemic orientation is adopted; parts are interconnected in a systematic way so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; a mutual influence, i.e., recursivity, between parts exist
    Reality exists independently of our minds Reality depends on the constituting activities of our minds
    Exact concepts, quantified by scales, indexes, etcetera; researchers' perspective Sensitivity for concepts used by respondents; respon-dents' perspective
    Seeks explanatory facts, the truth or causes for social and human phenomena with little regard for subjective experiences Concerned with verstehen or understanding, as closely as possible, the behaviour experienced by the respondents
    Correspondence is sought between a statement and an independently existing reality through empirical verifi-cation A level is maintained where coherent or agreed schemes about reality are constructed; consensual domains form the basis of verification
    "Number-crunchers" "Story-tellers"
    Sources of information are factual, sensory-observable entities and phenomena that are measurable and quantifiable Sources of information are meaningful constructs and interactions true to, or constituting the reality of the respondents' experience
    Instruments are a way to achieve an accurate reflection or measurement of an independently existing object Instruments are extensions of the knowers and operate as an element in their attempts to construct or constitute reality
    Advocates the use of quantitative methods, measure large numbers on often standardised scales, question-naires and coding lists Advocates the use of qualitative methods obtaining in depth information, such as interviews, participant obser-vation and document analysis
    Mostly obtrusive and unprejudiced measurement that optimises control, for example, a laboratory Naturalistic and mostly uncontrolled observation based on empathy
    Reliable; 'hard' and replicable data, credibility lies within technical refinement of the instrumentation Valid; 'real', 'rich', 'soft' and 'deep' data, credibility lies within the skills, sensitivities and capabilities of the researcher
    Expression of findings is provided in a neutral, scientific language that leads to more accuracy and less value-laden descriptions Report experiences in the language of everyday life; translations to 'scientific language' will only lead to an alternative version of reality
    Removed from the data; the 'outsider' perspective Close to the data; the 'insider' perspective
    Objective; instrumentation is separate from the researcher Intersubjective; the researcher is the primary instrument of the research
    Objectivity is seen as an acknowledgement of findings the way they really are; duplication of results is possible Objectivity is nothing more than social agreement, based on similar justification or persuasion; a commonality of perspective
    Macro-structural Micro-interpretative
    Ungrounded, verification-oriented, confirmatory, reduc-tionist, inferential and hypothetically deductive Grounded, discovery-oriented, exploratory, empathically, descriptive and inductive
    Data analysis by means of descriptive, inferential and multivariate statistical techniques Data analysis by means of interpretative frameworks, models, schemes, etcetera
    Focus on multiple case studies with the aim to generalise Focus on single case studies, knowledge and experience; often avoids generalisation
    Strives for generally applicable laws and theories Strives for interpretative theories and patterns that are often not generalisable
    Context free; standardised responses to preconceived categories Context bound; concerned with unique and particular settings
    Particularistic, outcome-oriented, sets of momentary measures of change at cross-sectional or longitudinal points in time Holistic, process-oriented, dynamic and evolutionary sensitivity to change
    Assumes a stable reality, where measurement is (re-peatedly) performed in a periodically static environment Assumes a reality where complete stability is never achieved; living constructions and accounts are dynamic
    Change in any (interactions of) independent variable(s) will lead to change in the dependent variable(s); change in the dependent variable(s) may lead to change in at least one independent variable (combination) In an interdependent way, a change in any one part of the system will lead to changes throughout

    * Source: Fiedeldey-Van Dijk, C. (1993). Differentiation as a basis for research methodology: Developing the INDINGILIZI Structured Observation Technique. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Pretoria.

    The contents of Table 1 were extensively adapted from ESRC SURVEY METHODS SEMINAR SERIES (1985-1986), Goldenberg (1992), Mouton (1983), Reichardt and Cook (1979) and Smith (1983).

    Biographical note:

    Dr Carina Fiedeldey-Van Dijk, Dphil, a Senior lecturer in Department of Psychology, UP & acting director of CEMCO (Centre for Human Advancement in Psychosocial Context). Registered as a research psychologist at the SAMDC, consider myself to be a research methodologist within the social sciences, actively involved in this field.

    [email protected]



    BROOKLYN 0181

    Dualities and body types

    Dain Peters

    University of Natal (PMB)

    Examining certain dualities (mind/body; self/other) this study analyses the social construction of body image stereotypes in terms of Lowen's (1978) proposed character types. A questionnaire was administered to 40 subjects of different groups (gender, race, age, source). It required the subjects to match Lowen's personality descriptions with his figure drawings, thus testing the social consensus around his proposed personality/body matches. The analysis investigated the clustering of the responses: whether or not they agreed with Lowen's proposal and whether or not they were group-specific. The results demonstrated that no single subject agreed with Lowen's match of personality and body characteristics. There was, however, more agreement around Lowen's Rigid character personality/body match than any of the other propsed matches. The results showed further that there was significant consensus amongst the subjects for other (un-Lowen) personality/body matches: Schizoid/Oral; oral/schizoid and Psychopathic/Masochistic. The results were in no way group-specific in terms of source, age, sex or race

    Questions this paper examines are: How do the dualistic belief systems which keep the mind and the body separate impact on the field of Psychology as a whole, and how are they maintained? Is their any connection between body and personality: "as without, so within"? (Davies, in Radley, 1991) How do people form impressions of others and come to attribute to them particular personalities? How does the body impact on the process of social categorisation?

    In exploring these issues, the paper explores the dangers of dualistic conceptualisation and examines more holistic ways of conceptualising people, amongst these being the inclusion of interpersonal factors and an awareness of the body-mind interpenetration in the field of personology.

    The experiment took a proponent of Bioenergetics and used his five character/body types to examine these questions, it seeming that Alexander Lowen, in his explicit acknowledgment of all these factors might at once present the argument with an exemplary synthesis of these dualisms.

    Within the limitations of the experiment the findings show that there is some kind of reasonably common rationale in operation on the basis of which the general public forms expectations/stereotypes of certain bodyshapes. That these stereotypes do not agree with Alexander Lowen's hypothesis suggests many things. Amongst these are that the recognition of Lowen's "stereotypes" needs either a more practised/trained eye or more evocative (3D) data.

    The experiment was a pilot-study, more exploratory than conclusive and the paper's focus will be more on the theoretical background to it rather than on the study itself.

    1. Personology and dualisms.

    In the branch of Psychology called personology people are studied in order to establish similarities or differences between them in order to understand, explain and predict behaviour. In so doing dominant social beliefs and conceptual frameworks often come to bear on this field and personology, like many other so-called "objective" and "scientific" pursuits may become "ideological": that is serving to perpetuate the status-quo.

    In many instances dualistic conceptual frameworks contribute towards this perpetuation of the status quo. For instance how, where and why the distinction is made between body and mind, or self and other is very often informed and maintained by the whole gamut of social values, controls, norms, power relations etc

    In questioning how dualistic thinking came to influence (some say predominate) our conceptualisation so strongly let us first examine the words themselves. The words "dualism" and "dichotomy" are commonly used as synonyms however in the strict philosophical tradition an interesting and telling distinction is made between the two. A dichotomy involves the splitting of one class into two subclasses, one of which possesses and the other which does not possess a certain quality; whereas dualism involves the use of two principles sometimes complementary and sometimes in conflict. Although in both dualism and dichotomy the subdivisions are exclusive and discrete it is noteworthy that in a dichotomy one of the two groups is merely negatively characterised.

    This is especially intriguing when considering gender for example, which, it is possible to argue, is closer to a dichotomy than to a dualism, feminine being an artificial category characterised merely by an absence of masculine.

    1.1 History and background.

    In terms of the history of dualistic thinking it is interesting to note that it is only in the Christian and Islamic religious traditions that notions of good and bad are dichotomised into two mutually exclusive supreme beings.

    This suggests that there is an ancient legacy to dualistic thinking, that we have inherited the tendency to oversimplify, to set in opposition and to deny the integrative complexity of things.

    Lévi Strauss argues that universal thought is at core binary in nature. He analysed ancient mythology to access the so-called "primitive" universal logic in its " uncontaminated form " (Leach, 1973, p56) and found that the myths are generally concerned with resolving unwelcome contradictions.

    With the structuralist school, of which he is an exponent, Levi Strauss argues that it is in perceiving opposites or contrasts that the mind builds up its perceptions of the world: light/dark, long/short etc. From these "isolated contrasts" the mind seeks analogies with other contrasting phenomena and encompasses the analogies into its system of classification.

    In so arguing Levi-Strauss suggests not only that we have been historically influenced by ancient religious and mythological dualisms but also that binary thinking is integral to how we think and that our minds are pervaded with systems of classification filled with analogous contrasts.

    The binary oppositional nature of conceptualisation was also proposed by the personologist George Kelly who argued that the cognitive system constructed dichotomous classification systems consisting of two contrasting concepts and that these constructs were used in future predictions, expectations and categorizations. Similarly Jung conceived of the psyche contents in binary opposition, animus/anima, etc ( al 1990)

    In conclusion therefore it has been argued that dualistic thinking has its roots in ancient thinking and that it has brought a great influence to bear on religious, social, mythological, scientific and even intra-personal conceptualisation.

    1.2. Dualisms in personology.

    In the field of Personology we see much evidence of dualistic conceptualisation and it might be interesting to highlight a few of them, the repercussions of this conceptualisation and to explore alternative conceptualisations.

    1.2.1. Nature/Nurture.

    The most ready one in personology might be the Nature/Nurture split: the dualism between psychic determinism and environmental determinism.

    The former (associated with Freud) ascribes the aetiology of behaviour characteristics to the individual and the latter (associated with Skinner) to the influence of the environment, and these have been central to much debate in Personology and the understanding of human behaviour.

    Some ramifications of this distinction are notions of volition (victim/controller) and changeability. A topical example of this might be the aetiology of homosexuality which, if viewed as being genetically determined (nature), reduces the likelihood of any intervention altering sexual orientation at the same time as casting the deviant as victim ; while if homosexuality is viewed as being environmentally determined (nurture) the likelihood of altering that sexual orientation is increased at the same time branding the deviant as a pervert. This allows one to see that this dualistic conceptualisation carries with it certain intervention possibilities and value statements about its focus. Another interesting example might be the mad/bad duality which has to be negotiated in forensic cases in terms of determining culpability.

    The word "nature" itself bears with it a history of changing dichotomies, meanings aand value statements. It seems that the concept of "nature" has generally taken its meaning in part from that to which it has been opposed. That is to say that "nature" has been conceptualised as opposed to divine kings, opposed to corrupt society, etc and since 'nature' has been opposed to different doctrines at different points in history, its meaning has shifted accordingly." (McCormack,1980, p20).

    1.2.2. Nature/culture.

    In this regard another instance of a dualism in personology that one comes into contact with is the Nature as opposed to Culture split.

    The ramifications of this dualism becomes more aapparent when one realises, as Jordanova (in MacCormack, 1980) highlights, that in the Enlightenment the "self-conscious scientism" was conceptualised as a male gift and as the way to demystify nature , which was conceptualised as inherently female. Thus we see the Enlightenment's binary opposition (dichotomy ?) of women as natural and men as cultural.

    Jordanova cites Bacon who, in the early Seventeenth century referred to the detailed study of nature by saying: " I am come in very truth leading to you Nature with all her children to bind her to your service and make her your slave. " (MacCormack, 1980, p46).

    Here then is evidenced the danger of binary thinking the centralising of one point of view in the subversion of the other: culture/nature, male/female, master/slave.

    1.2.3. Self-Other.

    Yet another instance of dualistic thinking which one encounters in Personology is that between Self and Other.

    In terms of this, Sampson (1988) in his analysis of the history and myths surrounding individualism, contrasts the Western concept of "self-contained" individualism with other cultures' "ensembled individualism" in which " a person's sense of self is defined through relationship and connection" (1988, p21). He suggests that all cultures make the distinction, different cultures differing only in where they draw the line between self and "nonself other".." ( Sampson, 1988, p15).

    Birke (1994), citing Plumwood, makes a connection between Western culture's strong self/other motif and its relationship to rationality and instrumentalism. She argues that the self defines itself against others and then denies connections with them. (p 141)

    The implications of this are far-reaching, argue Environmental Psychologists, asserting that it is the concept of delimited self in opposition to other which has lead to an ignoring of the other and the indiscriminate violation of environmental rights. (Bateson, 1991)

    This is further evidence of the danger of dualistic thinking, the detaching polarisation of this conceptualisation does not facilitate the understanding and behaviour that a more connected conceptualisation might.

    It is interesting to see these processes in object relations framework which argues that the infant polarizes good and the bad (idealization), splits off the bad (unwanted) part, projects it onto another person and then through projective identification (a Kleinian term) this split off part is reclaimed and is maintained in relationship. It is this " 'recovery' of a modified version of what was extruded." (Ogden, 1979, p357) that is particularly interesting and I will be referring back to this and drawing out the object relations parallels to the dualistic thinking process throughout the rest of this paper.

    1.3. Proposed syntheses of these dualities.

    Of course awareness of and sensitivity to dualisms is not new in the field of Personology, researchers have been aware that these distinctions were largely for pedagogical purposes and that they don't exist in reality and many attempts have been made to synthesize them.

    For instance, Millon attempted to remedy the nature/nurture duality by proposing that biological and experiential determinants combine and interact in a reciprocal interplay throughout life." (p492). He proposed a " Biosocial learning approach" which saw an individual as having a certain set of chromosomes/constitutional pattern which shapes and interacts with their social reinforcement experiences.

    Similarly, in his Social Identity theory, Tajfel attempted to synthesize the dichotomy of "Self-Other" by formulating a continuum of behaviour on the one end of which is purely interpersonal or interindividual behaviour that occurs when the social interaction between two or more people is determined solely by their unique characteristics, while at the other extreme placing purely intergroup behaviour which occurs when the interaction is wholly determined by the participants membership in various groups. (Foster et al, 1993)

    Merleau-Ponty challenged the mutual exclusivity of traditional "Self-Other" dichotomies as well as challenging " ..the classical dichotomy between a fully determinate and an impartial observor." (Langer, 1989, p17) by putting forward an argument of co-constitutionality: that it is via the world that the very meaning of the person's existence emerges both for himself and for others" and it is through each person's existence that his/her world is given meaning.

    This relates to Plumwood's concerns as regards the link between the maintenance of self/other thinking and its relationship with rationality and instrumentalism mentioned earlier, as well as the arguments proposed by environmental psychologists.

    Other researchers, like the late Timothy Leary, in arguing that personology should focus less on the self and more on the interpersonal, propose that diagnosis and categorisation should deal less with what one person is and more with what a person does, overtly or covertly, in relation to another person who, in some sense is the object of this behaviour.

    It is in terms of such interpersonally-interpreted standard diagnostic labels that bioenergeticist Alexander Lowen classifies his set of 5 character types (oral, psychopathic, masochistic, schizoid, rigid) that are going to form the focus of the experimental aspect of this project which will be discussed later in this paper. Before going on to that let us deal with one more duality in Personology.

    2. THE MIND-body DUALITY

    Another duality that one comes across in Personology is the mind-body duality. Similar to the gender issue mentioned earlier this duality could also be considered a "dichotomy" in terms of the argument that the body is merely a negative characterisation of the mind, containing all its opposites: unconscious, mortal, bestial, primitive etc.

    2.1 A brief history.

    In the earliest Greek thought there was no attempt to draw a distinction between mind and body, nor therefore was there an attempt to describe the relationship between mind and body. It was Plato who later introduced the idea that mind and body are two separate entities: immortal soul and mortal body. Aristotle disagreed arguing that mind and body could not be divided and that body is mind made manifest. Later, the Middle Ages notion that "form followed matter" (as it were) suggested that soul was dependent on matter. This was too much for the rigorous religious climate of the time and led to Aquinas arguing for the readoption of Plato's differentiation between the two. During the Renaissance the dichotomy between mind and body widened and in the Enlightenment with the dualistic model of mind and body proposed by Descartes it was firmly entrenched. This facilitated the objectification of the body and the discounting of the subject's bodily experience.

    This Cartesian mind/body framework, argues Johnson (1987) creates two splits in human experience:

    (1.) In arguing that the body does not play a crucial role in understanding, in spite of the fact that rationality makes use of material presented by the senses, it facilitates an ontological gap between mind and body, reason and sensation.

    (2.) In arguing that the mind knows its own representations and their relations it facilitates an epistemological gap between our internal ideas and the external reality.

    2.1. Somatophobia.

    There are many traditional belief systems supporting this split between mind and body. Several feminist writers have identified within Western traditions a deep fear and hatred ("somatophobia") of the body.

    "...what is most despised in these cultural traditions are precisely those functions that we share with animals, the 'animality' of our bodies as they sweat, bleed or defecate" ( Spelman, 1982, in Birke, 1994, p 115).

    This would be supported by the Judeo-Christian tradition, for example, which asserts that humans are set apart from animals in terms of their "divine spark of rationality" (Johnson, 1987, pxxvi) that it is by their rationality (mind) that humans transcend their physical embodiment and approximate godliness.

    It would seem as if scientific method with its bias towards mechanism, constancy and reductionism as well as various social taboos and morals around sexuality and bodily functions are both consequences and perpetrators of this "somatophobia".

    2.1.1. Scientism

    In the history of research the body gradually became the container of the active processes under scrutiny and this effectively reified the body.

    "The body of the anatomists was (and is) an objectified entity, a neutral, passive and sometimes dead lump of material to be dissected and analyzed. When we speak today of 'the body' it is to this generalized entity, abstracted from any particular personality that we usually refer. " (Radley, 1991, p33)

    And the dominant medical model, until recently based on the Cartesian mind-body duality, "regards dysfunction or disease as the result of aetiological factors which are typically biological in nature, so that treatment is construed as a biological process wherein psychological and environmental factors are not always considered.." (Sclebusch, p8).

    2.1.2 Morality.

    Since the Enlightenment and its emphasis on the moral dignity proper to every individual, there has been an effort by society to dissassociate itself from desire and mortality. (Dent,1992).

    Once again, viewed from an object relations perspective, one needs to bear in mind that the process outlined here is one of splitting, disowning and reclaiming remembering the arguments that dualisms allow for a denying of connections thereby creating an ontological gap between reason and sensation, an epistemological gap between internal ideas and external reality and facilitating rationality and instrumentalism.

    Having separated the mind from body, the detached body is used as an object of perception, it is projected and reclaimed in an area in which it is used extensively, in stereotyping : in predicting the private interior by the public exterior.

    2.2 Stereotyping.

    2.2.1. body Stereotyping and the Self.

    Hagglund and Piha (1980) argue that an awareness of one's body as a separate object is the very foundation of the formation of the self, that as we categorise others according to their bodies so we categorise ourselves.

    In terms of how the formation of self is a social process Birke (1994) refers to the fact that the coding of bodies is a cultural one, arguing that bodies are not just bodies but male and female ones with all the meanings that that entails and that even body parts are culturally coded, certain bodily features being associated more with one social category and its discrimanatory implications than another: eg hips, biceps, nose, wrinkles, chin.

    Radley (1991) refers to the study of how people look at each other and their consequent deductions as "person perception". He highlights how the interpretation of the data of "person perception" has changed over the years with changing social attitudes towards the body and social groups.

    Once again it is necessary to highlight the detachment with which this process is undertaken as Radley (1991) points out: " This was not the living body, as much as the physical body seen and objectified through the comparisons its owner might make with the physical characteristics of other people." (p64)

    2.2.2 body Stereotyping and the Other.

    Gilman argues that the "Other" is characterized in terms of physical appearance "be they sick, mad, sexually profligate, or black...They can have their qualities condensed in their facial expression and in their deportment." (Gilman, in Radley, 1991, p55). Thus we see the so-called "primitive" other photographed naked in the National Geographic, as we see the "female" other draped half-naked over a new car in an advert.

    Mindful of the injustices perpetrated by body categorising, the scepticism and sensitivity around body categorisation is more understandable. When the body is ignored in research, however, it is often unclear whether this is to avoid indiscriminate and simplistic body stereotyping as evidenced in Apartheid, Eugenics, The Holocaust, sexism etc in which it may provide a pseudo-scientific retreat for bigots and racists, or whether this is a function of "somatophobia". I suppose, in object relation terms, one could say that it is unclear whether the person is participating in the process at the splitting stage (somatophobia) process or the projective identification stage (prejudice).

    2.3.Proposed syntheses.

    The history of Psychological research includes much debate as to the relationship between mind and body. The importance of the body was acknowledged by many important researchers and theorists including Freud, Piaget, Winnicott.

    Work carried out by Sheldon in 1940 drew on the work of phrenologists and characterologists of the previous century and particularly on the work of Kretschmer who had categorised mentally ill patients in terms of their physique. By measuring various parts of the body and taking ratios of these measures Sheldon defined three components: ectomorphy, endomorphy, and mesomorphy which together provided the parameters for a range of body types.

    Winnicott (1958) argued that in fact the mind does not exist as an entity, but that it is a special case of functioning of the "psyche-soma", that the psyche can be said to be the "imaginative elaboration of somatic parts, feelings and functions, that is of physical aliveness" (p244, my italics) and that it is not localized anywhere.

    Merleau-Ponty's (1976, in Kelly 1986, p24) perspective expanded this argument to include both the self/other dichotomy and the "..dichotomy between a fully determinate and an impartial observor" (Langer, 1989, p17). He asserted that " In order to explore my body in the same way as any other perceptual object I would need another body, which itself would be unobservable."

    This highlights another aspect of the "embodied self": its private, interior component and its public, exterior component neither of which are wholly observable by another or by onesself, but which are constructed interpersonally.

    Most recently in 1995 a neuroscience researcher Damasio, in his book "Descartes' Error" argues that Descartes failed to see that "Nature appears to have built the apparatus of rationality not just on top of the apparatus of biological regulation, but also from it and with it." (in Dennett, 1995, p3). He argues that the older systems intertwine with the new in a way distributing the self throughout the body, that all images are rooted in neural representations that preserve the maps of sensory and bodily experience. That is to say that all thought is "grounded in these body-representing neural structures, and from this they gain the power to move us in ways that 'pure thought' could not." (in Dennett, 1995, p3).

    The so-called body Therapies emphasise the part played by the body in the genesis and resolution of psychological conflict, attempting to mend the mind-body split. One of these body therapies is bioenergetics.


    Bioenergetics has its origins in the work of Wilhelm Reich, an enthusiastic protege of Freud. He was among the first of the psychoanalysts to adopt an holistic view of a person, refusing to divide the psyche from the soma or the individual from their culture and civilization. He was an active Marxist and anti-fascist and was especially noted for his work on character resistance (1933) and his ideas on the central role of the orgasm (1927).

    While Freud gradually abandoned his notion of the libido as an actual energetic phenomenon, Reich saw it as the essence of life and came to measure and call it first "bioenergy", then "vegetative energy" and finally the notorious "orgone energy".

    Reich, like Freud, argued that the basic problem in neuroses was to be found in defences associated with unresolved infantile conflicts. " These inhibitions block or distort the natural expression of real biological needs. In adult life, the inhibitions are retained out of irrational fear that asserting these instinctual impulses will result in intolerable pain or frustration. ( Saeger, in Cassius, 1980, p31).

    Eventually this focus on the form of the expression led Reich to recognize observable physical dynamics corresponding to specific psychic attitudes. He argued that psychic and somatic experiences are phenomenologically indistinguishable and mutually reinforcing unit. With this he began working on psychic attitudes through manipulation of tangible muscular tension.


    Many subsequent bodytherapies are indebted to Reich's work and teaching, amongst them are Alexander Lowen's Bioenergetics whose character types were used in the experiment.

    Lowen, a qualified lawyer and doctor, studied with Reich, later developing his own bioenergetic formulations and exercises.

    Lowen highlights the individual's need to recognize their embodiment and outlines 5 character structures. A character is defined as the habitual pattern of behaviour (including defences) with which an individual handles this orientation towards pleasure, the primary drive according to bioenergetics.

    If pleasure is defined as being expansive, "opening up, reaching out, making contact. (Lowen, p138), lack of pleasure would be the reverse "closing off, withdrawing, holding in or holding back" (ibid, p138), this can lead to pain or anxiety which in turn necessitates the setting up of a defense against the impulse.(note how the dichotomy of pleasure/absence of pleasure becomes a dualism.)." Rigidity and a lack of spontaneity suggest that the energetic charge is not flowing freely into the muscular system. This picture adds up to a state of contraction in the organism which is the somatic aspect of pain." (p138)

    3.1.2. Lowen's Character types.

    Using this rationale Lowen extrapolates a set of five basic types, and "Each type has a special pattern of defense on both the psychological and the muscular levels that distinguishes it from other types" (Lowen, 1978, p151). The five types, categorised in terms of physical and psychological dimensions are "schizoid", "oral", "psychopathic", "masochistic" and "rigid".

    4. The Study.

    What the study did was to examine the social construction of this psychological and muscular match by asking subjects of different groups (gender, race, age, source) to match Lowen's description of each of the 5 character types with 5 of his figure drawings.

    It aimed to ascertain :

    i) whether there is a pattern in the way that the general public stereotypes individuals in terms if their bodies.

    ii) whether the link between body features and personality features suggested by Lowen is agreed with by the general public.

    iii) whether there are differences in the way that different group members categorise others in terms of their bodies.

    iv) whether the way in which people categorise themselves has an impact on how they categorise others.

    4.1 Subjects.

    40 subjects were chosen on the basis of availability, ostensibly 20 were to have been chosen from University population and 20 from Pietermaritzburg central, a male and female of representative of 4+1 race groups and age extremes. In practise although 40 subjects participated in the study the groups are not represented equally.

    4.2. Limitations.

    4.2.1 In terms of the body.

    i) The silhouette drawings used on the questionnaire are not easy to differentiate, more-lifelike drawings would seem more suitable.

    ii) A two dimensional figure drawing of any quality would seem not to do justice to a theory which deals with body energy and tension patterns.

    4.2.2. In terms of the personality characteristics.

    iii) It was necessary to condense more complex descriptions of character types into short paragraphs which, although evaluated by an independent judge, were too simplistic to be totally accurate.

    4.2.3. In terms of its treatment of social construction:

    iv) The results were drawn from too small, and too controlled a population to allow easy analysis and generalisability. Ideally the groups of subjects would have been more disparate: university students and rural subjects for example, unfortunately time and money constraints did not allow this.

    V) Lowen's constellation of body features and character features could not be challenged. This might be termed the "synecdoche-ic fallacy" where part agreement erroneously constituted whole agreement between body-type and character-type.

    4.3 Analysis.

    Using the chi squared test, cross tabulation, trend analysis, and the Anova

    4.4 Results.

    The results demonstrate no consensus with Lowen's proposal, although there was more agreement around Lowen's rigid character personality/body match than any of the other proposed matches. There seemed to be significant consensus around other matches between psychological and physical characters (Schizoid/oral; oral/schizoid and psychopathic/masochistic. The results were in no way group specific in terms of source, age, sex or race.

    5. Conclusion and Recommendations.

    This paper has attempted to show how dualistic thinking has accorded various perspectives and treatment procedures priority over others and has aimed to demonstrate how a critical awareness of the nature and repercussions of dualistic thinking might allow the clinician and researcher to adopt perspectives and intervention strategies which are more tolerant of integrative complexity.

    The paper looked at the historical origins of dualistic thinking and its implications by examining instances of dualisms in personology : nature/nurture, nurture/culture, self/other, mind/body. Various syntheses of these dualisms were also explored: the asserting of interpersonal dynamics by the likes of Leary, Tajfel and Millon, the deconstruction of the self/other dualism by Merleau-Ponty and environmental psychologists, the assertion of mind-body interpenetrative unity by Merleau-Ponty, Damasio and Bioenergeticists.

    As paradigms shift away from reductionistic, dualistic, modernism to a perspective which is more wholistic, pluralist, post-modern a bio/psycho/social model including an awareness of the body and its interaction with an individual's past experiences, belief systems and interpersonal dynamics might create a more complete picture of a person and facilitate a more effective approach to facilitating change in the individual.

    In terms of the latter, Keeney cites research by Bandler and Grinder (1979) which "....demonstrates that most clinicians (and their clients) habitually encounter the world without differentiating between their sensory experience and their created abstractions about that experience. The problem is that clinicians' higher order abstractions, rather than their more immediate sensory experience, often becomes the primary data of therapy." (Keeney, 1983, p45).

    In the light of such a statement one might propose that a primary focus on the body and on interpersonal behaviour, by both clinician and client, might remedy this, yielding relevant, useful and available information. This paper argues that a critical awareness and understanding of the processes and implications of the dualistic thinking permeating both these areas of investigation would integrate the dualism which Keeney sets up between immediate sensory experience and higher order abstractions. This might challenge the dualistic framework in which data is often embedded and facilitate a more integrated approach to seeking more integrated data.


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    [email protected]

    Department of Psychology

    University of Natal (PMB)


    Kenneth G. Wilson

    Department of Psychology, University of the Witwatersrand

    The aim of this paper is to investigate the possible nature of a critical social theory of human personality. This exercise is regarded as being important as a result of the paradoxical status of the term "personality": personality being one of the "core" areas of the study of psychology, whilst at the same time, there being little agreement as to that which is signified by the term. The central difficulty in defining personality adequately is the ubiquitous nature of the notion of the "general individual". The apparent difficulties in the utilization and definition of "personality" are related to the so-called "crisis in social psychology". It is argued that the uncritical acceptance of the notion of the "general individual" is what put social psychology into crisis in the first place, whilst at the same time functioning as a barrier to the development of more adequate understandings of human personality. A critical social theory of personality is then proposed as a possible solution to some of the outlined theoretical problems, and is largely derived from the domains of social psychology, personality theory, the philosophy of science and critical theory. The paper describes the central features of such a theory, and ends with a discussion of some possible applications.

    [email protected]

    Department of Psychology

    University of the Witwatersrand

    PO Wits


    2nd Annual Qualitative Methods Conference: "The Body Politic"
    critical methods society - - [email protected]