The 17th International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry

The 17th International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, which was held this past week from 19th-22nd May, 2021 drew 100s of scholars from around the world for several days of thought-provoking presentations. The conference began on Wednesday with a day in Spanish and Portuguese and meetings of special interest groups for autoethnography, arts-based research, and Indigenous inquiries. Workshops and poster sessions were scheduled for Thursday, along with a day for scholars in the field of social work. Inspiring keynote addresses by Bryant Keith Alexander and Mary E. Weems (“Collaborative spirit-writing for social justice”) and Ron Pelias (“Empathy as a tactic in repressive times”) introduced by the Director of ICQI, Michael D. Giardina, provided a powerful reminder of the value of qualitative inquiry on Thursday evening. A plenary performance (“Gazed at: Stories of a mortal body”) was presented by Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock on Saturday evening.

As in past years, I found it hard to choose what sessions to attend – archival research, autoethnography, critical ethnography, arts-based research, participatory research, paperology, performative inquiry, posthumanism…. There was literally something of interest for everyone. And in all the sessions I attended, there was lots of activity in the chat box of the Zoom meeting rooms!

Although I missed all those conversations had with others over coffee in the Illini Union building or dinner at the BBQ, in all of the sessions that I attended, I heard great conversations among attendees and presenters. Next year’s conference is scheduled for 18-22 May, 2022. The call for papers will circulate in September 2021.

I had the great honor to serve on the review panel for the Outstanding Qualitative Book Award this past year. Along with other members of the review committee, Ron Pelias and Pat Sikes, I reviewed 22 nominations for the award this year.

Honorable mention was awarded to:

Faulkner, S. L. (2020). Poetic inquiry: Craft, method and practice (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Sandra Faulkner’s Poetic Inquiry: Craft, method and practice charts a detailed methodological path for those interested in using poetry as a qualitative research tool. Representing research findings through poetry has a long history. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, wrote epic poems dealing with plant classification, the origins of life, and evolution because he felt that such a form was the best way of communicating his ideas. Richly informed by contemporary poetics, Faulkner provides a primer on poetic construction and demonstrates the variety of poetic strategies that researchers might call upon as they go about their work. This book goes beyond representation to show how poetics can inform the whole research process, including design, data collection, analysis. For all researchers wanting to explore and engage in poetic inquiry, this book is essential reading. And it also inspired one of the award panel members to try writing a research poem….

The winner of the 2021 Outstanding Qualitative Book award was:

Edwards, E. B., & Esposito, J. (2020). Intersectional analysis as a method to analyze popular culture: Clarity in the matrix. Routledge.

Erica Edwards and Jennifer Esposito’s book Intersectional analysis as a method to analyze popular culture: Clarity in the matrix belongs to that rare breed of textbooks that has something for novices and more experienced readers alike. It’s engaging, critical, thoughtful, ethical, grounded, and scholarly and although it deals with the complex and complicated mess that is social life it does so in a way that really does exemplify the ‘bit after the colon’ – that is, it provides a way to come to some clarity in the matrix. In these days when it sometimes seems as if ‘identity politics’ has fracturing and disruptive consequences, it is certainly worth being shown how applying an intersectional lens can help researchers better make sense of and more fairly represent lives.

Members of the review panel agreed unanimously that we’ve read no discussions of intersectionality that demonstrate greater clarity and insight than Edwards and Esposito’s book. Not only do the authors make a compelling theoretical case for intersectional work, they apply their ideas, coupled with their own positionality, to a variety of cultural artifacts, including television programs, film, music, and social media. As readers, we came away with greater understanding about the power and necessity of intersectional research, and the importance and value of being critical readers of popular culture. We enthusiastically recommend this book to you and your students.

Kathy Roulston

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