Core Practice 6 — Interviews: Intimacy and Reciprocity in the Field

Interviews, like observation, are a crucial part of doing ethnography. They are a social event on their own. While you are perhaps a relative stranger to your interviewee, you hope that he or she will share their intimately personal narrative with you. We learn about ‘building rapport’, and to reflect on our social and cultural positioning. This sometimes includes appreciating strong physical similarities or dissimilarities with our research participants, but otherwise physical positioning does not receive a lot of attention. What role can our body play in building rapport and creating a fluid exchange between interviewer and interviewee? How is our body language, as we host and lead the interview, when we are at the same time a guest in someone else’s life space?


Further Reading

Anderson, J. (2004) ‘Talking whilst walking: a geographical archaeology of knowledge’, Area, 36(3), pp. 254-261.

Brown, J. 2018. Ep. #9 Calculated risk: Elizabeth Watt talks sexual power, politics, and vulnerability in the field. In: Brown, J. (ed.) The Familiar Strange.

Hastrup, K. (1987) ‘Fieldwork among friends: ethnographic exchange within the northern civilization’, in Jackson, A. (ed.) Anthropology at home ASA Monographs. London and New York: Tavistock, pp. 94-108.

Overing, J. and Passes, A. (2000) The anthropology of love and anger. The aesthetics of conviviality in native Amazonia. London and New York: Routledge.

Rendell, J. (2006) Art and Architecture: a place between. London: I.B. Taurus.

Rubin, H. J. and Rubin, I. S. (1995) Qualitative Interviewing, the art of hearing data. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Skinner, J. (2010) ‘Leading questions and body memories: a case of phenomenology and physical ethnography in the dance interview’, in Collins, P. & Gallinat, A. (eds.) The ethnographic self as a resource: writing memory and experience into ethnography. New York and Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 111-128.