The discursive management of identity in interviews with female former colonials of the Belgian Congo: Scrutinizing the role of the interviewer

Dorien Van De Mieroop and Jonathan Clifton

Abstract

Whilst interviews are often regarded as an essential tool for social science, it has long been recognized that the interviewer has a formative role in the locally situated socio-communicative events that interviews are. Using transcripts of interviews elicited from female former colonials in the Belgian Congo, this article examines the way in which the interviewer, himself a former colonial, manages the construction of meaning and identity in relation to two intricately interwoven issues, namely the position of women and colonial society more generally. Findings demonstrate that the interviewer places the interviewees in a position of interactional subordination which also allows him, despite the threat to the interviewees’ face, to construct women as being superfluous both in 1950s-society in general and more specifically in the storyworld of the Belgian Congo, whilst at the same time he avoids any face threat to the colonial society more generally.

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