In Search of Montsalvatch: Making Sense of Interviewing Farmers

By McElwee, Gerard | Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

In Search of Montsalvatch: Making Sense of Interviewing Farmers


McElwee, Gerard, Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry


A FOOLS JOURNEY

According to legend, Titurel, the keeper of the Grail, lived in Grail Temple at Montsalvatch on the Mount of Salvation. Titurel was reputed to be 400 years old before he was instructed to find himself a partner. He realised that he had been so absorbed in his work of protecting the Grail that he had forgotten everything else. So, he married, had children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Into the story, enters Parzifal, the great grandson of Titurel who lives a life of isolation in a forest with his mother Herzeloide.

Against his mother's wishes, he embarked upon a quest to be admitted to King Arthur's round table. Unbeknown to Parzifal, he had been chosen to be the future keeper of the Holy Grail and the King of Montsalvatch to replace Amfortas, the grandson of Titurel. Because she loved him so much and to try to ensure his return to her, Herzeloide, his doting mother, dressed Parzifal as a Fool so that he would be subject to ridicule. He was indeed subject to ridicule, suffering insults and abuse as he wandered the countryside enquiring of the whereabouts of the Grail.

Ultimately, Parzifal succeeded in his quest to become a Knight and did eventually locate the Grail. In his journeys, he made the transition from Unknowing to Knowing Fool.

This short tale is a metaphor for understanding the research process.

ABSTRACT

This paper presents a personal account of how an individualized qualitative research process attempts to understand farmers. A story of how the author interacts with and interviews farmers in order to understand how they and the narrator constructs meaning about what it is to be a farmer and the 'parallel world' of the farmer. Explores some methodological issues and problems about framing farmers as entrepreneurs.

Keywords: Self narration, identity construction, entrepreneurship research, farmers, farmers as entrepreneurs, reflexivity in research.

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

I will pursue three broad themes in this paper. I will explain my approach to research into the life world of farmers, provide a brief conceptualization of the farmer and will present my reflections in more detail. This implies performing the following activities: identify the methodological approaches utilized, describe the philosophical assumptions underpinning my work, discuss the process of interviewing farmers and engage in a reflexive process of my work.

My understanding of farmers as rural entrepreneurs is achieved by having conversations with farmers to consider the relationship between existing theory and practice, to develop new insights into theorizing the practice and extract local knowledge from farmers, combining both epistemological and ontological questions linked to an overarching theme of farmers as entrepreneurs.

GENERAL APPROACH TO RESEARCH

The research approach that I follow is relatively straightforward - and practical. I start by gathering some data in the field that I find interesting, through interviews, through surveys and through a literature review. This helps me identify some unsolved problem or some 'missing link', something that I think I need to know in order to fully understand the field. I then try to solve that problem to find that missing piece. I think I succeed when I identify some pattern that makes what I know about the field into a whole, some unity that does not need anything else for me to understand. If necessary I start again.

This notion of a pattern may need some elaboration. I do not look for what is usually understood by pattern -for example, patterns of weather, patterns of societal or individual behavior or patterns in astronomical behavior. Such patterns stand for regularities in the 'real world' - or rather daily life - and often become 'theorized' (Gill and Johnson, 1997). Patterns to me include anything that I can recognize as having some independence as a pointer to further experiences. …

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