Interviewing as a technique is governed by a series of conventions, depending on the kind of interview one conducts. One distinction that may be made is between asking a single, setting-the-ball-rolling type of question as is often the case in narrative, life history, or biographical interviews where a question such as ‘Tell me about . . .’ is asked, and interviews or interview schedules where the researcher has prepared a series of questions covering particular research themes. The latter is often done with the research topic itself directly addressed or in focus. However, one’s research focus is usually hedged with all manner of assumptions, produced by the context in which one lives and researches. This chapter takes two such research areas – friendship and mourning – to discuss how one might move beyond the reproduction of those assumptions in how one conducts one’s interviews. It draws on interview experiences from two previous research projects, one about the culture of friendship resulting in a book Den ofullkomliga vänskapen (The Imperfect Friendship) from 1995 and one about grief after a sudden death, published as Oväntad död: förväntad sorg (Unexpected Death: Expected Mourning) in 2006. Friendship and grief are gendered concepts permeated with culturally produced normative assumptions, loaded with emotions, ideals and anticipations. In interviewing people about their experiences regarding friendship, and mourning in the context of sudden death, I decided that it was important not to focus explicitly on ‘the star’, i.e. the topic directly, through asking questions such as ‘what is a real friend’, ‘how many friends do you have’, or ‘how did you deal with the different phases of mourning’ - questions that produce potentially conventional answers. Instead, I developed a different, more constructive interview method by trying to ‘catch the light’ by asking questions in more indirect ways. As I shall demonstrate in this chapter, getting at people´s everyday practices proved to be a more effective way of eliciting narratives about the complex scenarios in which friendship or grief are performed.
Routledge, 2016. 192-207 p.