9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN20 Qualitative Methods

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Gender Related Issues in QM Building II, C2.01

The Only Way is up? Women´s Narratives of Class Mobility

Upward class mobility is often seen as something desirable in a modern society, a success story told by ?the ones who made it?. In this paper the subject matter is women?s narratives of upward class mobility in Sweden during the 1990?s and 2000?s. In order to understand such narratives this paper argues that a combination of narrative analysis and discourse analysis is needed.

These narratives were collected using a life story-approach. When analysing life-stories it is important to understand the construction of the stories in relation to the context in which they are produced. As Sandra J. Jones (2003) has emphasized, ?a drawback of narrative analysis is that it tends to produce highly individualized account from which it is difficult to develop concepts or themes.? The usage of narrative analysis alone can make the researcher fail to notice the relation between individual stories and the stories of class mobility that is a part of Swedish equality discourse. Therefore, this paper argues that in order to understand such narratives a combination of narrative analysis and discourse analysis is needed.

The methodological argument on combined methods will be addressed through empirical observations from the actual setting of the interviews. These empirical observations include:
1) The impact of power relations in the interview situation. During the interviews the women several times asked the interviewer about the ?right answer? about class location. How can the relation between the researcher and the interviewee be understood in these situations?
2) The importance of analyzing shared knowledge about class and class mobility. For instance, the interviewees referred to the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu in the understanding of their own class mobility, the same theorist that the researcher intends to use in the analysis of the interviews. What effect do these common understandings of class have in the interview situation?

Summing up, this emphasizes the importance of combining methods of analysis.