20 SES 12 A, Voice-centered Relational Method: Focusing on the voice, the relationship and socio-cultural context in research narratives
Voice-centred Relational Method (VCRM) is a type of a narrative methodology, which was initially developed as a method of interviewing, also known as ‘The Listening Guide’ (Gilligan, 1982; Brown & Gilligan, 1992; Gilligan, 2003). As Gilligan et al. (2003) offer, it is ‘a method of psychological analysis that draws on voice, resonance, and relationship as ports of entry into the human psyche’. While there are many other models of narrative analysis (for example, Murray, 2003; Andrews et al, 2008), and specifically models focusing on relational selves (for example Mason, 2004), VCRM may be the most appropriate method for researchers who want to focus on both on individual understandings and cultural, social and political contexts.
VCRM is based on a relational ontology, which recognises the centrality of social relationships. Mauthner and Doucet (1998) emphasise that by foregrounding relationships, VCRM opposes the Western philosophical tradition that views that focus on as separate, self-sufficient, independent, rational “self” or “individual. Instead, it posits the notion of “relational being” (Jordan, 1993:141), a view of human beings as embedded in a complex web of intimate and larger social relations (Gilligan, 1982). VCRM is an attempt ‘to translate this relational ontology into methodology and into concrete methods of data analysis by exploring individuals’ narrative accounts in terms of their relationships to the people … [and] to the broader social, structural and cultural context within which they live’ (Mauthner & Doucet, 1998, p.126). It also emphasises social constructionism by recognising the researcher’s own voice and story.
VCRM was developed in part as a response to the uneasiness and growing dissatisfaction with the nature of coding schemes typically being used to analyse qualitative data (e.g. Grounded Theory). VCRM offers a way of looking at participants in a more holistic way and stepping away from ‘categories that are too separate [as] human life is of a piece, multi-layered, contradictory, multivalent, to be sure, but the strands are always interconnected’ (Josselson, 2011, p. 232). Therefore, VCRM with its detailed focus on the individual voice as well as relationships and embodiment in the cultural, social and political context provides a platform to focus in depth on participants’ unique ‘voices’ and experiences before moving onto understanding these in the wider context.
VCRM provides a useful medium for analysis of the narrative material, but it can also be successfully used to analyse other types of qualitative data which were not collected in a narrative way or with this method of analysis in mind (Jankowska, 2014a, 2014b).
This method revolves around four readings of the interview transcripts:
1) A reading for an overall story
2) A reading for an individual voice of the ‘I’
3) A reading for relationships
4) A reading for social, cultural and political contexts
The aim of this research workshop is to familiarise colleagues with this not very well known methodology and consider how it could be used in their own research. As it emphasises cultural, social and political aspects and offers a way of looking at data through various lenses, it can be fruitfully applied to any qualitative data with intercultural and international dimension as well as any research that focuses on political unrest and conflict (between individual voices and other socially, culturally or politically dominant voices). The philosophy behind and the methodology itself will be discussed before showcasing VCRM in action. Participants are advised to bring own data in order to gain practical experience of analysing material with the use of VCRM (the presenter will also share her own experience, provide analytical snapshots from her own and her students’ data and have material to analyse at hand).
Gilligan, C., Spencer, R., Weinberg, M.K. and Bertsch, T. (2003). On the listening guide: A voice-centred relational method. In Camic, P. M., Rhodes, J. E. and Yardley, L. (eds.) Qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in methodology and design (pp.157-172). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. Jankowska, M. (2014a). Voice-centred Relational Method: Focussing on the voice, the relationship and socio-cultural context in narratives of personal development. In P. Brindle (eds.), SAGE Cases in Methodology. Sage: London. Jankowska, M. (2014b) Students’ representation and experiences of Personal development and Personal Development Planning at one British university. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Bedfordshire. Mauthner, N.S. and Doucet, A. (1998) 'Reflections on a voice-centred relational method of data analysis: Analysing maternal and domestic voices', in Ribbens, J. and Edwards, R. (eds.) Feminist dilemmas in qualitative research: Private lives and public texts. London: Sage. pp. 119-144. Mauthner, N.S. and Doucet, A. (2003). Reflexive accounts and accounts of reflexivity in qualitative data analysis, Sociology, 37 (3), 413-431.
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