Narratives that matter. Illness stories in the ‘third space’ of qualitative interviewing

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In the process of narrative interviewing in the medical field, intense relationships between interviewer and interviewee can develop and participants are often willing to reflect in a committed and multi-faceted manner about their illness experiences and their biographical meaning. Based on observations and data from the website project DIPEx (Database of Individual Patients’ Experiences), this effect of the situation of narrative interviewing is analyzed in terms of positioning and contextualization activities of interviewers aimed at deconstructing hierarchical imbalance and establishing an expert identity for the interviewee and his/her illness experiences. The evolving situation with its role changes and openness to identity work is compared with the concept of heterotopia and regarded as a deliberately created and transient ‘third space’ to explore new subject positions for the interviewees. Advantages and ethical as well as methodological dangers of this approach to interviewing are discussed.


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