Conversation as Research: Collecting Life Stories, Creating Places

By Olivia Hamilton.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this paper, I reflect on the experience of conducting qualitative research in the city of Rome, in which daily exchanges between myself, the researcher, and the people whose city I was inhabiting for a brief period, became an essential part of the research process.

Many of these conversations took place in casual encounters, while walking the city streets: the act of walking in the city (see de Certeau, 1988) was, for me, a way of becoming a part of the city’s rhythms; engaging people in conversation was a way of talking through the often unspoken understandings of place to which I, a stranger, would not otherwise have been exposed.

In order to establish a more equal exchange, I avoided the divide that often exists between researcher and researched, opening myself up, responding to questions, and offering my opinions to the people I met, such that the act of collecting the life stories that inform my examination of immigration in an urban environment became entangled with friendships and more intimate conversational exchanges, through which, together, we explored what it meant to create a home for oneself in Rome.

Keywords: Qualitative Research, Fieldwork, Conversation, Daily Life, Urban Environment

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp.43-50. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 608.010KB).

Olivia Hamilton

PhD Student, Department of Sociology, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia

My thesis examines the ways in which immigrants and minorities in contemporary Rome construct their identities in place, thus creating new ways of understanding and of being in Rome. I am especially interested in the interplay between concepts of identity and of place that inform our experiences of power and politics in everyday life.

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