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Reading focus group data against the grain

Walters, Rosemary ORCID: 2023. Reading focus group data against the grain. International Journal of Qualitative Methods 22 10.1177/16094069221146991

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This article explores how reading focus group data ‘against the grain’ offers new insights into publics’, and especially marginalised groups’, negotiation of dominant discourses. Using data from a study with members of the UN Foundation’s Girl Up campaign in the UK, US and Malawi, I demonstrate that reading against the grain both across and within groups enabled me to explore the girls’ complex negotiations of girl power discourses in international development. I argue that reading focus group data against the grain involves paying attention both to wider social power relations, as is crucial to a poststructuralist discourse analysis, and to interactions between group members, a form of analysis more commonly associated with Conversation Analysis. This methodological strategy enabled me to explore the topic of girl power discourses in international development from a new perspective, moving beyond the abundance of critiques in the literature of dominant discourses emerging from powerful institutions. By focusing on the girls’ instances of resistance to, and critical engagement with, dominant discourses, I suggest that reading focus group data against the grain opens up the possibility of a rich new area of research for scholars and practitioners alike: one which goes beyond simplistic victim/agency binaries and explores the complexities of audiences’ readings of texts.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Law
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 1609-4069
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 9 January 2023
Date of Acceptance: 20 November 2022
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2023 18:58

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