Monday, March 11, 2013

Negotiations of objectivity in the social sciences

In our ""CCA" module, we discussed the nuances in our understandings of objectivity in the social sciences.

Delineating the break from the natural sciences, understandings of objectivity in the social sciences are constituted in the values of the researcher, her/his constructions of the self, her/his relationship with the subjectivity of the research participants, and her/his negotiations with materiality.

That there are material contexts of symbolic behavior is a key point in culturally-centered work, and yet this material context is negotiated symbolically, through language and through acts of representation. In this sense, communication lies at the heart of the social sciences, the world of the material being negotiated through meaning making.

We come to understand materiality through the symbolically mediatized narrativization of the material world.

For example, the everyday lived experience of struggling with hunger is a material reality that is felt in the absence of food.

Yet, our understanding of this materiality is constituted in the symbolic exchange between the researcher and the participant, in the sharing of stories of hunger, and in the mutually constituted process of meaning making. We make sense of the world through our own subjectivities, interacting with subjectivities of our research participants, and together attributing meaning to the material world around us.

In sum, materiality is important to our understanding of human experiences. How hunger then comes to be understood through everyday lived struggles with the absence of food is felt physically/physiologically by the body in the form of pain. How we make sense of this material reality relates to the symbolic meanings we co-construct and the ways in which we chart out courses of action. 

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