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Fourteenth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry

May 16-19, 2018
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


The theme of  the 2018 Congress is “Qualitative  Inquiry  In Troubled Times.”  These are troubled times. The global right is on the rise,  north, south, east, west. It is  setting  the agenda for public discourse on the social good. In so doing it is narrowing   the spaces for civic  discourse. A rein of fear is on the rise. Repression is in the air: Brexit, the Trump presidency,  global protest. Dissent is silenced. The world is at war with itself. The moral and ethical foundations of democracy  are under assault. The politics may be local, but the power is global, the fear is visceral. We are global citizens trapped in a world we did not create, nor want any part of.


Public unions, education and civic, participatory social science are in jeopardy. Academics and pacifists critical of the public order risk being as branded traitors. Critical qualitative, interpretive research risk being  stifled by  federal administrators who define what constitutes acceptable science. Right-wing politicians silence criticism while implementing a “resurgent racism… [involving] punitive attacks on the  intellectuals, the  poor, urban youth, and people of color (Giroux, Henry. 2016.  “Donald Trump and the Plague  of Atomization in a Neoliberal Age.” Truthout. 8 August).


There has never been a greater need for a critical qualitative inquiry that matters, a discourse that pushes back. A discourse committed to a politics of resistance, a politics of possibility, a politics that dares to dream of social justice,  to dream  of equity, peace and a world without violence.


This it the calling of the 2018 Congress, can we collectively live our way through these troubled times, and push through into newly imagined utopian spaces. Can we train a new generation of engaged scholars and community leaders who will lead us into  these uncharted terrorities.


The  2018 Congress offers scholars the opportunity  to foreground, interrogate, imagine  and engage new ways of doing  critical qualitative inquiry in these troubling time.  Sessions will take up such topics as: redefinitions of the public university, neoliberal accountability metrics, attacks on freedom of speech, threats to shared governance, the politics of advocacy, value-free inquiry, partisanship, the politics of evidence, public policy discourse, indigenous  research ethics, decolonizing inquiry.


Scholars come to the Congress to resist, to celebrate community, to experiment with traditional and new methodologies, with new technologies of representation. Together we seek to develop guidelines and exemplars concerning advocacy, inquiry and social justice concerns. We share a commitment to change the world, to engage in ethical work what makes a positive difference. As critical scholars our task is to bring the past and the future into the present, allowing us to engage realistic utopian pedagogies of hope.


Scholars from around the world have accepted the challenge to gather together in common purpose to collectively imagine creative and critical responses to a global community in crisis. The Fourteenth  International Congress offers us an opportunity to experiment, take risks, explore new presentational forms, share experiences, problems and hopes concerning the conduct of critical qualitative inquiry in this time of global uncertainty.



Seduction and desire: the power of spectacle


Bronwyn Davies., University of Melbourne and Western Sidney University


Since January 2017 we have been witness to an extraordinary spectacle. Courtesy of the e-media we can get up each morning to gaze aghast at the latest episode of a drama we have fast become addicted to — America’s “very big” real life reality tv show. Such spectacles, in their capacity to engage avid, global attention, work on us all, in ways we are not necessarily conscious of. There is a dynamic at work in this spectacle that is, I will suggest, the culmination of neoliberal ideology and practice, and is made possible by the global explosion of internet usage. The task for qualitative researchers, I will argue, is to bring concepts to bear on the micro and macro elements of the spectacle, to make sense of how January 2017 and its aftermath became possible; and to produce an insightful analysis of the lines of force at work shaping and produced by the spectacle. Never have we had such rich data to work with! The video clips of Trump, and of his Greek chorus cheering him on; his tweets; the protesters; the comedians; the political activists; the judges; the journalists of the alt-right and those holding the ground of critique. Our job as social scientists is to pry open the dynamics of the spectacle to discover how they work—and how to deconstruct them. In this paper I will mobilise Baudrillard’s concepts of seduction and desire to see how they might be put to work in such an analysis.


Stitching Tattered Cloth: Reflections on Social Justice and Qualitative Inquiry in Turbulent Contexts


Karen Staller, University of Michigan


Chaos, it appears, is the order of the day.  Democratic practices, principles, and institutions are under attack. Freedoms of religion, movement, assembly, and speech are being threatened. Hostilities, fears, and suspicions of “others” are being stoked based on differences by nativity, ethnicity, race, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ability status.  Political and social battlefronts have sprouted everywhere: borders and bathrooms, coastlines and clinics, embassies and airports, sacred lands and sanctuary cities. All seem to require immediate attention. We are facing troubled times, giving rise to questions about the role of qualitative inquiry in these turbulent contexts.


Historically, qualitative researchers have asked questions about the politics of evidence; but what does that look like in an era of “alternative facts” and “fake news”?  We have resisted the ‘audit culture’ in the academy, but what happens when the academy itself is under attack?  We have asked whose interpretation or narrative counts; but how do we honor local and situated knowledge when those views may deeply offend our own sensibilities and appear threatening to human rights?  We have advocated community engagement but what is the role of action-based and participatory methodologies, where action is being called for on both sides of ideological battle lines?  Is it possible to ‘give voice’ to others and take action in a world comprised of political camps informed by fundamentally incompatible views of reality? In general, we have used qualitative inquiry to expose fault lines and resist oppressions but have we done enough to bridge differences, to find common ground, or to stitch seams along frayed edges?


This keynote will be based on a year long project musing about the role of qualitative inquiry in turbulent times. Using critical inquiry and social work values this keynote will be pieced together from scraps gathered in a diary of field notes reflecting on conversations in classrooms, on campuses, at community forums, between protesters, over email, through tweets, or derived from news accounts, political cartoons, or other threads of qualitative evidence.


For over a decade the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry has incubated ideas and conversations in a cozy cocoon. More than ever before the time feels right to reflect on its significance as an organizing space for global advocacy and as a collective force for infusing a more hopeful, compassionate, and forgiving worldview by inviting all those who share similar values and principles to join the movement.


We shall not cease from exploration/ And the end of all our exploring/ Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time (T. S. Elliot,  No 4 of  Four Quartets,  1942).

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