9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN20 Qualitative Methods

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Cross Cultural Research: Challenges and Hurdles Building II, C2.01

"Heshima" - Social interaction and commonsense thinking in cross-cultural interviews

In this paper I will focus on interviewing in a cross-cultural context. Cicourel (1964) was inspired by Schutz (Fontana 2002) who argued that shared knowledge is a prerequisite for understanding and reciprocating actions. Cicourel claimed that utterances in survey interviews always are occasioned with sense making based on unspoken meanings and aspects of settings, and never context-free (Cicourel 1974, Mishler 1986, Altheide 2002). Consequently, we need to understand participants` categories and how they use them in particular activities (Silverman 2006).
I will use Cicourel`s argument as a point of departure to discuss experiences from a research programme on company welfare in multi-cultural Tanzania (Ryen, Temba and Matotay 2009). This goes well along with his concern about how researchers go about categorising the activities described. Also, the interview activity takes place in a context where we cannot always assume knowledge to be shared, where reciprocity may be complicated and the context interrupted by the cross-cultural aspects of the setting, and as such complicates the commonsense devices for making sense of the environment (Cicourel 1964, Ryen 2008a and b).
I will show how this influenced upon social interaction in the interviews mapping benefits and allowances in the Tanzanian formal sector pay-packet, and discuss how we best can treat such data. This includes arguing how members of mixed teams can collaborate to manage the complexity of the everyday knowledge ?taken-for-granted? that no longer can be assumed shared. Unless these challenges are made explicit, cross-cultural programmes risk being robbed of their transformative potential.