Sunday, May 1, 2011

More of Nespor's Used Cabbage

I'm currently trying to get over the debilitating hurdle of writing up a rough draft of analysis of my interview data from last term.  This qual methods course is really challenging me to think outside of the box of normal analytic convention.  So - needless to say - I'm struggling. Immensely.  I have no idea where to begin.  So, here I am, sharing with you all, the intellectual ponderings and offerings of my favorite teacher so far, Jan Kent Nespor.

Analysis as a Dialogue

There's a nice interlude in EP Thompson's funny and instructive critique of Althusser in which Thompson basically lays out a synopsis of the logic of historical inquiry.  His metaphor of analysis as dialogue or argument is useful, I think.  For Thompson, inquiry is a 
A dialogue between concept and evidence, a
dialogue conducted by successive hypotheses,
on the one hand, and empirical research on the
other. . . . It is this logic which constitutes the
discipline’s ultimate court of appeal: not, please
note, ‘the evidence,’ by itself, but the evidence
interrogated thus. (52-3)
an argument between received, inadequate, or
ideologically-informed concepts or hypotheses on the
one hand, and fresh or inconvenient evidence on the
other; with the elaboration of new hypotheses; with the
testing of these hypotheses against the evidence, which
may involve interrogating existing evidence in new
ways, or renewed research to confirm or disprove the
new notions, with discarding those hypotheses which
fail new tests, or refining or revising those which do, in
the light of this engagement.
    What we are saying is that the notion (concept,
hypothesis as to causation) has been brought into a
disciplined dialogue with the evidence, and it has been
shown to ‘work’; that is, it has not been disproved by
contrary evidence, and that it successfully organises or
‘explains’ hitherto inexplicable evidence; hence it is an
adequate (although approximate) representation of the
causative sequence, or rationality, or these events, and it
conforms (within the logic of the historical discipline)
with a process which did in fact eventuate in the past.
(Thompson, 1978, pp. 58-9)

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