Cultures of Inquiry: From Epistemology to Discourse in Sociohistorical Research

Cultures of Inquiry: From Epistemology to Discourse in Sociohistorical Research

Cultures of Inquiry: From Epistemology to Discourse in Sociohistorical Research

Cultures of Inquiry: From Epistemology to Discourse in Sociohistorical Research

Synopsis

Cultures of Inquiry provides a unique overview of research methodologies in social science, historical and cultural studies. John R. Hall describes eight interconnected methodologies that transcend present-day disciplinary and interdisciplinary boundaries. In this way, he is able to move beyond the objectivism/relativism debate in the philosophy and sociology of knowledge by showing how alternative research practices are formed. His book connects concrete methodological issues of research to contemporary philosophical and postmodern debates about knowledge.

Excerpt

A Third Path leads beyond modern and postmodern methodological debates in the social sciences, history, and the humanities. It turns out that choices between the routes of science and interpretation, history and theory, objectivism and relativism are more illusory than real. Even radically opposed methodologies for creating knowledge are only relatively autonomous of one another.

These are not conclusions I set out to reach when I first envisioned this book in the late 1980s. I began with an interest in bringing epistemology–the study of knowledge–into stronger relation with questions about the diverse styles of actual research. I wanted to explore the alternative cultural logics of what I will call “sociohistorical inquiry” encompassing historical investigations, interpretive analyses, field research, and quantitative studies. The idea for how to do so came as I was completing a book on Jim Jones's Peoples Temple, Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History (Hall 1987). Reflecting on the methodological rationale of that study, I began to think more broadly about the relationships between what I call “forms of discourse” and “methodological practices of inquiry. ”

The more I read exemplars and the more I combed epistemological and methodological writings, the more I became convinced that virtually all kinds of inquiry about the social world are amalgams that combine the resources of four different kinds of discourse–value discourse, narrative, social theory, and explanation/interpretation. But despite my sense that these formative discourses are nearly ubiquitous, it became equally obvious that not all research combines the four discourses in the same way. For instance, one researcher may try to keep value judgments completely separate from research, whereas another's value stance entirely permeates empirical analysis. Differentials like this one suggested that I might be able to identify the cultural logics of methodological practices if I could identify various ways in which such practices thread together the four forms of discourse. Exploring the relations of discourses to alternative practices, and of alternative practices to one . . .

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