Notes on: Norman K. Denzin. (2009). Apocalypse Now: Overcoming Resistances to Qualitative Inquiry. International Review of Qualitative Research, 2(3), 331-343. Retrieved February 17, 2020, from
And Hammersley's reply

Dave Harris

This is a short one act play addressing the criticisms by Hammersley and others. Critics should be more open-minded. Hammersley 2008 attacks Denzin and Lincoln's Handbook — as methodologically conservative and potentially damaging. This is 'an apocalyptic scenario' (331), but only one of a series of critiques — the backlash against post-modernism and poststructuralism' [which includes St Pierre]. This is a critique inside the 'qualitative inquiry community', however, so this is at 'a new level'. This is a response in the form of the play chosen because Hammersley is particularly critical of performative and literary versions. [It also permits all sorts of evasions and snide shouting down] He is right to see this as a revolutionary reform and social science will be different afterwards.

Speaker one (M Flaherty) says that social sciences should be about understanding. Speaker two (Coyote) says that social justice is also important… Lincoln says that there is so much publishing, more than 50 new ones. Then we get onto the characters in the play which include Hammersley and a number of other great spokespersons — the usual suspects and Freud [didn't see him] Foucault, [or him] Barthes and Heidegger [or him]. Then we get onto staging notes — it is a seminar at the University of Illinois, with the room described [for some reason]. There is also a 'narrator – as – cultural historian' to set the agenda ' [and have the last word] (333) [God its tedious]

Hammersley who appears '(in white face)' says that they need a functional and scientific approach, not pluralism, not poetics not politics or ethics [are these his actual words?]. But what sort of science? Hammersley replies advocating value neutral pursuit of knowledge, validity, evidence, truth, generalisations and so on [and these are referenced to his 2008 book]. Blumer agrees and says there is an empirical world and that ethnographers must marshal evidence. Dorothy Smith says there is an overriding truth. Jan Morse asks about the politics of evidence and how evidence is constructed and represented. Hammersley objects and says that 'we can answer questions about the world correctly' (2008, p 135). Pelias asks him to prove it [what a strange objection — prove it how?]. The Adlers agree and say that post-modern ethnography is dangerous, poisonous, cultist and indulgent [as a reference to Hammersley's book again, so I assume this is a quote or summary in there?]. Sanders '(in white face, snide look)' (334) agrees and says that the arty versions of ethnography are mediocre overwrought and 'artsy-craftsy' [with a reference]. Ms Coyote rebukes him for claiming to be a literary critic, and says this is the backlash against post-modernism — 'apparently we can be the butt of ridicule from anyone, and any critic feels free to be uncivil and downright mean!' (335).

Bochner & Ellis remind us of all the work being done at the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry and the number of qualitative journals.

Goodall rebukes some of the above and accuses them of being extreme, and not having read the 'paradigms dialogues of the 1980s'. There is now more to the world. 'When did you stop reading? Is coexistence impossible?'. The narrator appeals for calm and getting back to the question. He says that they are not rejecting science but doing it differently, [make your mind up] in multiple forms, including post realist and post-humanist. They want to write performance texts which 'quote history back to itself… Focus on epiphanies, on the intersection of biography, history, culture and politics, turning point moments in people's lives'. Hammersley is right to say that this is a political orientation 'that is radical, democratic, and interventionist'.

The narrator recommends that they review Hammersley's criticisms ['Martyn's criticisms'] a certain H Torrance '(paraphrase, 2008, page 64)' says 'be careful, he may put you in a government issued straight jacket [sic]'. So they get onto Martyn's criticisms.

Coyote claims that s/he 'can objectively present his' (336) criticisms. Hammersley says that Denzin is doing ethnographic post-modernism, linked to poststructuralism and the Habermasian [?] crisis of representation [this is Denzin 's version of the Lyotard/Habermas debates]. This involves a turn from science to art, literature and performance. Dada and surrealist art movements have been taken up.

Lather '(sharply)' denies any influence from Dada or surrealism. Morse joins in — 'Martyn, bless his soul, sees several false premises in poststructuralist claim. Because reality is socially constructed, objective accounts cannot be produced'. Producing knowledge or facts should be our main goal. Science is not necessarily oppressive although scientism is in some circumstances. Coyote says 'Whew! This is quite a lot to swallow. Who are the culprits here?'. Stronach says that it will be the usual crowd of old lefties, Asians and Latin Americans. They are trying to do things differently and do not necessarily agree with Hammersley.

Barthes 'as post structuralist' [this persists when Denzin cites Mythologies, as a note acknowledges] disputes Hammersley's remarks about poststructuralism — that they see no responsibility for making sound conclusions, but prefer instead to '"license speculative, exaggerated conclusions; discourage careful attention to evidence supports the knowledge claims made; and to stimulate a preoccupation with whether research accounts are in line with political, ethical, or aesthetic preoccupations"' [this is a direct quote from Hammersley 2008 -- I think it refers to the 'postructuralists' in QI, not Barthes --although it could apply]. These are exaggerated and it is hard to say what he means. We may 'never achieve more than an unstable grasp of reality' that we must have an appropriate method (337) and 'seek reconciliation between reality and people, between description and explanation, between object and knowledge, between hope and despair' [quoting Barthes 1977]. [very vague of course -- Barthes own tensions in playing the field while wanting to be politically relevant]

Coyote says: 'So, Roland, you are saying Martin has your view all wrong'. Barthes again says 'yes all wrong'. It is also wrong to condemn Dada and surrealism for diminishing the importance of testing and clarity [but this is rendered as— 'why does he have to be so dismissive of the French?']. MacClure says Hammersley says she is accused of arguing that to be unclear can be valuable. She wants to defend 'Norman and Yvonna and Joe Kincheloe who talk about research being a form of bricolage — the bricoleur is a trickster… The bricoleur uses what works, which is all the evidence that is needed. It is like a Baroque method, resisting clarity' [this might be a quote from MacClure 2006, or perhaps a bit of it is].

Hammersley is quoted [?] as insisting on checking interpretations against evidence, not exaggerating or speculating, 'bricolage, visual art, and imaginative literature do not encourage the testing of hypotheses or the collection of evidence'. Coyote asks if he has this right, what is his evidence, what his own interpretive method might be, and it 'sounds like some serious misreading to me… He seems awfully mean-spirited'. Ellis smiles at this and says that experimental ethnographers get lots of criticism from all sides.

Norman and Yvonna take up the point about bricolage and the need to keep 'multiple interpretive methodologies of qualitative inquiry' always available (338). If the method helps 'illuminate the situation, process or issue' it should not be discarded. Bricoleurs are [must be] multiply competent capable of working with different perspectives and paradigms. Bricolage that results is [always?] 'Complex, dense reflective, collage-and–montage–like creation' it results in a pattern of meaning out of disparate components [quoting their own book] [I didn't think they were into creating patterns of meaning — see Denzin on Griswold]. They say they have always called for writing that is 'clear and accessible' . They agree 'with Roland' on the need for an appropriate apparatus and framework of analysis — 'how else would we construct our texts?!' [In other words they assume they must have a framework for they would not be able to  produce their stuff]. There is problem of what Hammersley means by testing.

Coyote avoids that issue and asks whether Hammersley has misread them on bricoleurs. 'If he is wrong on this, what else does he have wrong?'. Norman and Yvonna say he is also wrong to dismiss drama, collage and poetry. Coyote summarises 'Martyn's main complaints': they promote work that is not objective, is obscure, discursively unstable, value– and theory– laden, critical of normal science, opposed to testing interpretations' and that they have no criteria for quality. Somebody called Maggie [ MacClure?] says none of this is new, and 'which reality is he testing his ideas against?'

Roland says  H wants to throw out much of what they do. Coyote says H is critical of 'thick description, analytic induction, interviewing as a method, discourse analysis' (339), that there are no standards of quality and too much rhetoric. Maggie replies that the 'arts-based research movement' even have their own Handbook [whoopee! Another case of the argument that if stuff gets published it must be good]. It is 'a moral, political project that builds on critical pedagogy, honours the voices of street artists, values diversity and dialogue, and promotes performance as a form of knowing' [but is it any flocking good?]

Madison says that performance-based disciplines 'can contribute to radical social change… Performance ethnography is a way of knowing, a way of acting, a strategy for creating critical consciousness' [but is it any flocking good? Is there any evidence that it has actually done that?]. Coyote says that performance ethnography is not particularly artistic or poetic or obscure, that instead they have developed 'performance – sensitive ways of knowing, writing and acting… Away from text-centred forms of representation'. 'Maybe this is what upsets Martyn. We are in a different paradigms — pluralistic, performative, political'.

Hammersley says that there was a demand by neoliberal governments for relevant evidence based on accountable research, and that this led to a dismissal of qualitative inquiry as weak and a waste. However 'the response by many was to label critics as out of touch, post positivist, methodological conservatives, regressive modernists' [again looks like a direct quote].

Gaile and Yvonna have a very well considered response: 'Well, yeah! Duh!'

Hammersley continues that this was unwise politically and that the criticisms needed proper response, that those responses are also a threat to academic qualitative inquiry — because they depend on 'ideas that fundamentally mistaken, often deriving from what is frequently labelled post-modernism'. (340).

Gaile and Yvonna say this is too convenient, too easy to dismiss all the criticisms of methodological conservatism. 'He makes us look dumb'. He says that their understanding of post structuralism and post-modernism is incorrect, and that a framework is now of critical relevance. The turn to performance-based texts 'the Dada alternative' is also a dead-end, because art cannot be a model for serious science. 'Who made Martyn chief philosopher king?'.

Coyote says he is like those Native American Indians who joined the American military to fight Indian wars. 'More deeply his insulting descriptions of what we do become ammunition for the government critics. Could it be that his efforts to discredit us have become part of the problem?' Gaile and Yvonna ask him to elaborate, so he does, this time '(in blackface)' [in a spirit of superb self-pity]. Friends become critics and claim particular authority because they once belonged. 'There are outrageous extravagant criticisms add fuel to the fire. This relieves critics were not qualitative researchers from the responsibility of reading our work. So the misrepresentations are repeated'

Richardson [for it is she]. 'Martyn puts all the cards out on the table. For him pomo is no mo. But he wants to steal from us. I call this stealing from pomo or pomo sheavin [sic]. He uses our notions of literariness, narrative and reflexivity to criticise us. He wants to have it both ways'. Ms Coyote says he wants more — 'he does not believe that we should let 1000 flowers bloom. He is anti-methodological pluralism'.

'Martyn' says this is right, that we do not need 'pluralism, constructionism, post structuralism' but rather 'rules, criteria, checklists of quality, no new paradigms, no radical politics… Even-tempered, value neutral objective science'. (341). Coyote and Laurel '(in red face)' says that he can go ahead with his version 'but please leave us alone'. They want to keep their own ideas and their version of the discipline and introduce 'new ways of thinking, and representing real people, different kinds of people'

Art and Carolyn are 'jumping up and down' and their contribution is to say 'YesYESYes — NewVoicesNew VoicesNewVoices: NewVoices'. Someone called Saldana appeals for reasonable disagreement and suggests that Hammersley has misread post-modernism. This is greeted with a chorus — 'art, but, Carolyn, Laurel, and Ron as a chorus (in blackface, jumping up and down)': go – Po – mo – go!!!! GO PO MO GO — we want methodologies of the heart! GO PO MO!!!!'

Maggie says that Sartre saw Hell as other people in his play, which takes place in a locked room with no windows. 'Has Martyn placed us in a locked room, with only one way out, through the door he, and only he controls?' Norman replies that this could be Martyn's version of Apocalypse Now — unless they see the light, they are 'doomed to remain in a locked room, performing our little place for one another. This is our hell'


He acknowledges Ellis, Bochner and Richardson for helpful comments. Note 2 says that Adler and Adler are the ones who refer to the '"nomo pomo" backlash'. Note 3 explains there are three speaker voices, that speakers hold white black or red masks, that each voice 'is attached to a named historical or contemporary person, and that person [should be 'who'] is named as a speaker reads his or her lines'.[sic]. Coyote is a character from Native American cultures who challenges dominant white cultures and makes people laugh. He is 'an essential link to the sacred'. He likes paradoxes and contradictions and cracks an official ideology. There is also a biographical piece saying that 'Norman K Denzin is the editor of this journal'

[Overall we have dubious arguments -- that their qualitative stuff must be good because there is so much of it, that they have helped secure social justice etc (or hope to), that they are offering something new while criticism is old hat, that 'pomo' is some evolutionary step. This is combined with ad hominem stuff on 'Martyn' who has misread, is old fashioned, who is a traitor to qualitative inquiry, insensitive about the hurt he has caused, and who can finally be shouted down.]

Martyn Hammersley. (2010). Research, Art, or Politics: Which Is It To Be? International Review of Qualitative Research, 3(1), 5-9. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from

 A reply to Denzin's 'play'. D misunderstands his critics and sees them as modernists, resisting progress. Instead, research is a distinct form of activity, and to pursue it under the auspices of another subject is 'unethical'.

He is arguing that qualitative research is facing a crisis because social research has demands to demonstrate which policies work — but also Denzin's qualitative inquiry threatens it. The crisis 'generates needless uncertainties in decisions about how to pursue our own research and how to assess others'' (5) [ It has no positive recommendations -- it is empty critique]. It causes problems for fundraising. This is no apocalypse, but it is a crisis.

The 2008 book suggests that there should be a reflection about qualitative and quantitative work, instead of the 'shouting match' between evidence-based practice and post-modernist supporters. Both sides make dialogue difficult, however. For example he was attacked as a Luddite by Ann Oakley, who now apparently argues for research evidence-based practice. Now Denzin attacks him for 'standing in the way of a movement that the author assumes to be progressive' which makes any critics outdated closed minded and self-serving. This rhetorical strategy is 'patiently modernist' (6) and just avoids argument.

Denzin's use of the drama format means he 'hides behind various named "social science and education superstars" to make his assertions'. Everything depends on the purpose of using a play. Hammersley has not dismissed non-standard forms, any more than he resists statistical tables, and indeed once participated in a conference performance with Steve Woolgar, and he has also used dialogues as a written form to explore conflicting arguments.

For research, however, these forms are less appropriate than 'the purpose of developing arguments supported by evidence, that provide convincing answers to factual questions about the world'. Otherwise, the intended message can be obscured in that it is not clear exactly about what is being claimed and by whom. Researchers have an obligation to be clear and accurate and not use counter-productive rhetoric.

Denzin presents each side in the form of assertions rather than arguments intended to identify common ground and where disagreements lie. It also misrepresents his position:

He does not say or believe that there is no place for methodological pluralism or bricolage, and welcomes some methodological diversity — but not all. He thinks the role of montage or poetry must be shown to be appropriate to research. Of course research is necessarily political and has an important ethical dimension. He is not against radical politics — 'quite the reverse' (7), but sees politics as separate activity, even if it might be the most important current priority.

He does not see a conflict between that evidence has to be produced and constructed and the claim that objective representation is possible. The word objective needs clarification [ referencing himself]. We can answer questions correctly although we can rarely be certain that our answers are correct. Denzin says that Lather is not a Dadaist but she has explicitly proposed a Dada practice [with references, including to an article by Lather called '"Dada practice: a feminist reading"'].

He does not see Barthes as licensing speculative or exaggerated conclusions, but rather that this tendency has been encouraged in qualitative research [thought so] by the influence of post structuralism and post-modernism. Barthes was not a social scientist. His work can of course be criticised.

The fundamental point is that social science has different purposes from literature and art. Of course there can be common requirements, for example 'the thoughtful use of language', and both can use linguistic techniques. However people employed as social scientists, often funded publicly, have an obligation to non-social scientists — taxpayers, people involved in the process — to produce social science, not literature or arts. Others do that, often better than most social scientists 'as would become clear if the latter sought to publish their poems, plays, et cetera through the usual artistic and literary channels' (7-8). Those activities have value but serve different purposes.

Threats to funding of qualitative research are serious, and this should not be dismissed as an apocalyptic view. Blumer did indeed say that the world is obdurate and will 'kick back'. It can only be an impoverished notion of friendship or collegiality to argue that people should not raise questions about influential trends — 'a friend or colleague should tell you what he or she thinks, not what you want to hear'.

Claiming to be engaged in social science while really producing art or practising politics is 'unethical', pursuing one activity disguised as another. We cannot just redefine research however we wish — 'it can only be a joke' [citing Woody Allen].

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