Departmental Papers (SPP)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

October 2006


This article uses a postmodern lens to examine "shocks," cognitive emotional reactions of the interviewer to the unexpected, and shows how shocks and "shockwaves," responses to shocks, are related to the process of Othering. The concepts master narrative, coherence, Othering, positionality, and nonunitary subjectivity are used to present the analysis. Using excerpts from research interviews as illustrations, the article describes three types of shocks - those based on a violation of a social taboo, those deriving from professional role reversal, and those that are based on stereotypes. In addition, it explains three types of responses to shock - avoidance, circular strategies, and acceptance and moving on. The article shows how interviewees resist being Othered and, in an attempt to negotiate a more equitable interview situation, administer shocks. Interviewer expectations of master narratives and the process of Othering prevent interviewers from hearing complex, multifaceted, and atypical stories.


Postprint version. Published in Qualitative Inquiry, Volume 12, Issue 5, October 2006, pages 950-971.
Publisher URL:


interview, shock, postmodern, active, negotiate



Date Posted: 24 January 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.