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Tested Neutrality: Emotional Challenges in Qualitative Interviews on Homicide and Rape

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The relationship between interviewer and interviewee in the qualitative research interview implies a power imbalance as the researcher possesses the authority to frame the interview and ask the questions. Many feminist researchers have thus emphasized the importance of establishing rapport with the informant. In this article the consequences of the researcher's sym/antipathies towards her informants are examined. Parts of two interviews are presented in order to show how the researcher's emotional reactions entail hers as well as the informants' verbal responses and consequently the generation of data. In the interviews the female researcher was particularly emotionally challenged as they were of a delicate nature in which gender interplayed: a woman doing interviews with male refugees convicted for homicide and rape against female victims. It is further discussed whether sympathy and rapport or antipathy and a confrontational interview style—the consequences of the researchers' emotional responses to the narratives of the offences and the attitude of the interviewees—produced the best data. The article concludes that good intentions about avoiding prejudice by not reading the men's files and verdicts in advance may have been a wrong decision as it left the researcher insufficiently emotionally prepared for the information revealed in the interviews and for the encounter with the informants.
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Keywords: Antagonism; Power relationship; Qualitative interviews; Rapport; Violent offenders

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: NOVA (Norsk institutt for forskning om oppvekst, velferd og aldring), Oslo, Norway

Publication date: 01 January 2008

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