interviewing, structured, unstructured, and postmodern 2409

approach and its attempt to find checks and
balances in an effort to scientize the study.
Interpreting the information received is also
problematic. Since there is no close ended ques
tionnaire, the researcher finds there is a great
deal of what often seems disconnected informa
tion and has to decide what to use and what not
to use. There is also a tendency, as in structured
interviewing, to view the interviewer as invi
sible while in fact who is doing the interview
ing has a great influence on the interaction and

Oral History

Oral history is a very old approach to interview
ing. It is based on lengthy, often multiple inter
views with members of a specific group, such as
a Native American tribe or elderly people in a
chronic care facility. Its goal is to capture the
daily forms of life of the group under study
through the recollection of its members. Oral
histories are not always published, but tran
scripts can be found in libraries memories
of a past waiting for someone to bring them back
to life.

Creative Interviewing

Oral history straddles anthropology and sociol
ogy, while creative interviewing is more ger
mane to sociology. Douglas (1985) coined this
approach and it shares with oral history a tech
nique based on multiple, lengthy, unstructured
interviews with single respondents. Douglass
approach is more skeptical, raising doubts
about the veracity of the respondents and sug
gesting techniques to help pry the truth from
them. The interviewer should become close
to the respondents and share with them facets
of their own life in a sort of confidential quid
pro quo.


Postmodern informed researchers in both
anthropology and sociology (Marcus & Fischer
1986) moved away from scientific claims
about fieldwork and unstructured interviewing.
Instead, they are reflexive about the role and
influence of the interviewer in their interac
tion with respondents. They suggest ways to
minimize if not eliminate this influence, by
increasing quotations from the actual, unre
touched statements of the respondents. Also,
postmodern interviewers use a polyphonic
approach, using multiple voices of respondents
with minimal intrusion by the interviewer. The
interviewer became visible, actively drawn out
in the reporting, to help inform the readers
about the possible biases and gendered, social,
and contextual distortions created by whom
ever, wherever, and whenever the interview
We present two types of postmodern
informed interviewing: gendered interview and
active interview.

Gendered Interviewing

There has been a pervasive tendency in tradi
tional interviewing, whether structured or
unstructured, to be paternalistic. It was not
uncommon (in cultural anthropology) to give
women researchers temporary male status to
allow them to access settings and to talk to people
with whom women would not otherwise be
allowed to interact. The influence of gender in
interviewing has been traditionally overlooked.
Postmodern interviewers accuse traditional
interviewers of ignoring gender differences in
order to maintain the pretension of value free
and neutral research. Yet, as Denzin (1997) and
other postmodern sociologists hold, interviews
take place in a culturally paternalistic society
where gender differences do matter.
In gendered interviews the interviewer must
share herself with the respondent to gain her
intimacy. Gendered interviewing is committed
to maintaining the integrity of the phenomena
studied and presenting the viewpoint of respon
dents. Yet this is not a ruse, as in creative inter
viewing, to get more information. Instead, the
interviewer throws asunder pretenses of value
neutrality and becomes an advocate for the
women (or other oppressed individuals, such as
African Americans or gay groups) being studied.
It is reminiscent of C. W. Millss ameliorative