Heather Sykes, Jennifer Chapman and Anne Swedberg1
Virginia Woolf once said “writing lives is the very devil.” She could have been writing about contemporary qualitative research, although she was writing about so much more. Postmodern qualitative research has evolved out of the crisis of representation, which disrupted the notion that researchers could directly capture lived experience, and the crisis of legitimation, which unhinged the traditional criteria of validity and generalizability for assessing the worth of research. During the postmodern, fifth moment of qualitative research (Lincoln & Denzin, 1994), with its experimental texts and multiple voices, life historians had to grapple with the uneasy insight that life stories do not await the researcher “hiding in ethnographic caves or qualitative mountain tops” (Tierney 1998: 14). Researchers continue to grapple with the crisis of representation, embodiment and postfoundational systems of knowledge. I'm still learning about the devilishness of life history research as my educational qualitative research keeps spinning, through the linguistic turn and now the performance turn (Conquergood, 1992). This chapter follows the performative turn in my life history research about physical education teachers. It describes my collaboration with drama educators to create a performed ethnography based on life history interviews called Wearing the Secret Out (Chapman, Swedberg & Sykes, 2005).
A life lived.
Remembering a life lived.
Interviewing — Retelling li(v)es in speech
I conducted eight life history interviews with physical educators that form the basis of the performance. Life history interviewing, as a method in qualitative and feminist research, has traditionally been rooted in a humanist notion of the individual — a sovereign subject who possesses knowledge which, if skillfully solicited, can be uncovered by the interviewer. In this approach to interview research, the literal translation of talk has been equated with lived experience and its representation (Denzin, 1994). Methodological issues focused on how to accurately represent the lived experience or “reality”; how best to uncover the