Qualitative research and the politics of knowledge in an age of evidence: Developing a research-based practice of immanent critique
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This paper offers an expository discussion of an approach to qualitative health research we call immanent critique. The central analytic move of immanent critique, as we have practiced it, is to explore how claims that are internal to authoritative discourse are experienced by those who have been excluded from their formulation. This paper contributes to the discussion of the politics of qualitative research methods in an age of evidence. We do so by responding to a recent call to move beyond the micro-politics of the qualitative research encounter to consider the overall political effects of qualitative research. We argue that the political effects of research are partly enabled by mundane practices internal to the research process. We explore how this is so by considering one formulation of immanent critique--a qualitative study of the introduction of continuous quality improvement in Ontario hospitals. We emphasize how practices internal to our research--trade union collaboration, our orientation to authoritative claims, and procedures for generating and representing health care workers' experiences--helped shape the political effects of our research. The latter include challenges to managerial claims about neo-liberal health reform and broadening the evidentiary terrain upon which interlocutors can participate in public debate about health care restructuring.
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