Che materia stai cercando?

Aftermath. A scientist's narrative - Rittenhofer

Dispensa al corso di Sociologia delle relazioni interculturali della Prof.ssa Enrica Tedeschi. Trattasi del saggio di Iris Rittenhofer sull'interculturalità e sul lavoro dei ricercatori all'estero. Esso verte parzialmente sul resoconto autobiografico dell'autrice, in parte su interviste ad altri ricercatori. Lo scopo del lavoro è evidenziare... Vedi di più

Esame di Sociologia delle relazioni interculturali docente Prof. E. Tedeschi



FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

on to this position after my emigration, too. In Danish media, published

presentations of foreigners very rarely characterize them as Europeans, as highly

qualified professionals, but mainly as Arabs, as illiterates, as unemployed, as

criminals—none of those signifiers were embodied in my self. Here, too, the

possibility did exist to choose gradual differentiation. I could understand myself as

the other in the other, as the other foreigner (corresponding to, for instance, the

other woman) and thus go on with an understanding of myself as embodiment of

the foreign or I could choose to explore the feasibility of a third positioning. [49]

An important aspect of the idea of objectivity is the unequivocal separation

between the subject of the researcher and the object of what I researched. This

clarity can be created by further formations of difference, too, if those are

categorized as the foreigner, who works with materials of the inland, or as the

German, who investigates into Danish material, etc. However, neither being-a-

researcher nor being-a-foreigner can be a guarantee for objectivity in the sense

of a aloofness labeled as science. On the other hand, this aloofness cannot be a

condition of lived science, either. What is to be researched cannot be separated

from the already researched, present not from past, second country not from first

country, the global not from the local, being a part of something not from being

alien to it, since the definition of being a part presumes a respective other, and

that means difference. Thus, exclusion becomes thinkable. Time and nation, man

and woman are parallel categories, by which separation lines both are created

and embodied, essentialized, naturalized. Those categories are parallel, and their

parallelisms become visible if one asks for what it is that is told with time and

space every time, when something is essentialized with time and space. To give

an example for the parallelism of time and space: a stay abroad can be narrated

with past and present and thus be positioned in time, and it can be narrated with

home country and country of my choice and thus be positioned in space. Both,

time and space embody differences, meaning bipolarized oppositions. [50]

2.4 To experience and to research in language

In p2, the second foreign language, the foreign second language and the mother

tongue, including the cultural values and meanings of content contained in those

languages, inhered special meanings for the analysis. This is neither to be

understood as a positioning in the imagination of nations, nor as a positioning in

the related imagination of the diversity of nations and the values and meanings

continuing to live inside of them. The language diversity combined with what I

experienced and what I researched contributed to multiple understandings and

the multiplication of the understood. It became visible where the comparison like,

for instance, in p1 explicitly became both, method and source for cognition, but

also where multiple understanding became an implicit element of the

interpretation of first- and second language texts. It contributed to the cognition of

similarities, which are narrated in multiple ways, which get multiple meanings, and

which lead me to the formulation of the results of p2. [51]

When I started working on p2 I had already lived in Denmark for eight years. At

that point, it was no longer necessary (since a long time) for me to understand

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

the Danish material through the German material. The choice of my source

material for the project on business leaders (p1) had turned out to be a big

advantage. My reading of thirty years of media publications on this subject had

improved my language abilities, especially my vocabulary and my expressive

abilities to an astonishing degree. [52]

For my first project the draft was in German and by the time I published on the

second project I was using the Danish language. What was giving was not that I

can express reflections in more than one language, for that would mean that

reflections are independent of the language in which they are phrased. Whereas

it was a given that I not only was able to express myself in various languages, but

also to think in these languages, which was due to my long term stay in a second

language and in other languages. Thus, the possibilities for expressible

reflections became extended. The long term scientific work in a second country

lead to a duplication of the signifying practices being available to me. The

multitude of the reflections resulted from my movements between as well as

within various languages. It enriched my scientific work. [53]

As Georg SIMMEL (1999, p.687) explained, languages express processes of

thought which develop in words, but not through words. However, language

determines how we may think, and what might be thought. Different languages

make the formulation of varying processes of thought possible. Processes of

thought and their results may be changed, if they are thought in another

language, as becomes obvious when translating scientific work into another

language. Understanding, researching happen with language. However, they do

not happen as language: What I researched and experienced are not identical

with language. Hence, what I researched and experienced does not come into

existence through language. My own language, as well as being conscious of

having a language of my own, changed while I researched, but also through the

adoption of a second language in my life. This new second language changed

character as time went by: what I at first perceived as a language foreign to me,

became one of my own languages. In this sense, it is not the foreign language

that becomes a language second to my mother tongue. It is the language I

actually not use in a certain moment and in a certain situation that becomes the

respective second language. [54]

During the work on p1, some problems came into existence caused by the use of

several languages: I wrote p1 in German, discussed it mainly in Danish, and

finally defended the thesis in English. In the German material, the language of

polarized delimitations is predominant. When I translated it into the language of

equality which shaped the Danish material, problems like that of inequality

suddenly changed. Especially in the first years in Denmark, the shift between

Danish and German languages gave me a hard time, not because of a lack of

language competence, but because my question was altered or even

disappeared when I wanted to explain or to discuss a question thought in German

language in Danish. [55]

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

A working hypothesis from p1 may serve as an example for this phenomenon: a

certain culturally determined attitude towards women was at the core of women's

supposedly lesser usefulness and their wide exclusion from top positions. Thus, I

assumed a culturally conditioned perception to be a determinant for gender

inequality. Translated into Danish, however, this hypothesis became blurred: if a

language rests on categories of equality, if the respective other is embraced by

and an integral part of categories of equality, then the exclusion can only be

thought as a relative marginalization and as an element of what it is excluded

from. But in this case, inequality cannot be phrased in terms of a hierarchical

exclusion, the character of inequality becomes blurred (with reference to RITTEN-

HOFER 2000). The problem had to be reformulated and thus redefined. [56]

On the other hand, there were difficulties like these that in the long run

contributed to the development of an understanding: that woman and exclusion

respectively marginalization neither explicitly nor implicitly could be equated.

Quite simply, that the genesis of exclusion and marginalization is not rooted in

gender. Instead, differences which may be enunciated as gender are a

consequence of selections- and marginalization processes whose origins have to

be looked for external to gender. This insight considerably contributed to the

development of a terminology in p2 and was in p3 further developed: it was

extended to categories as ethnicity or science. Exclusion, however, is no essence

of these categories, however this essence might be defined. Exclusion becomes

an essence and a legitimization as soon it becomes embodied in one of those

categories. Thus, it became a necessity to break one of the paradoxes which was

an integrated part in the original design of p3: Originally, the marginalization of

foreign scientists was a central theme, but only those scientists who currently

were actively employed in paid positions within the undertaking of the Danish

science world. The subject was altered: instead of focusing on the exclusion or

marginalization of insiders, I chose to focus on the inclusion of those which come

from the outside. This Coming-From-An-Outside was categorized in multiple

ways, not limited at all on a categorization as gender, as foreigner. This had

consequences for the choice of interviewees, which I want to discuss below. [57]

What I may know is instituted through the imposition of language and as such

culture. The same is true for experience. Diversities, changes, contradictions of

what I experienced and researched are conditional on that. They are easier to be

known by the lived and experienced variety of the languages and are brought

forward by a thinking in the words and in the meaning systems of several

languages. It might be that this is conditioned by the broad similarities and

dissimilarities, the dissimilar similarities of Danish and German culture: it is not

primarily what can be experienced that is altered by the diversity of languages,

since signifiers are molded in the same way. Rather, what is altered is how

experience can be made. What is then experienced thus is modified and gains

new meanings. [58]

The examples given above are meant to explain that understandings do not

happen as language, but with language. In my case, understandings come about

both, in the language of equality as well as in the polarizing language of

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

difference. It turned out that the central point for my scientific work was the insight

that understanding happen either, through equality, through inter-community, or

through difference. Cultures do not own a language, neither are they identical

with language. To describe culture by language means that the same culture can

be understood as diverse languages or as facets of the diversities and

contradictions of those languages. The structures of equality or of the polarized

differences, if narrated as national language, turn into the different characteristics

of two nations. However, if one asks instead what can be told through a

language, then it becomes possible that the same signifiers and narratives can be

told in more languages, that is in more than one way. The differences I pointed

out in p1 between Danish and German language is are not limited to the signifiers

central for p1, that is nation, gender, leader, but it is true for arbitrary signifiers.

Since I until now did not understand language itself as a signifying category,

those parallelisms at first had not been accessible to me. [59]

In scientific literature, those characteristics described by me as Danish and

German language, too, appear described as premodernity and modernity, or

even as those of two different models for sex (LAQUEUR 1992). Often it is

underlined that what is described as premodernity and modernity, as one-sex or

as two-sex-model might have come into existence at different times. However,

they coexist. This thought of coexistence, too, might be applied on the source

material in p1: What may be described as the coexistence of modernity and

premodernity, may as well be described as the difference of two nations. That

means that nation and gender, too, may be understood as parallel categories.

Furthermore, it may mean that the systems of difference expressed in the

language of the sources is not characteristic at all for those categories which are

at the center of this discussion. Due to that, I increasingly read and analyzed

texts as parallel moldings of systems of difference, which reduced diversities. [60]

2.5 A guest in one's own presence

What I researched has consequences for what I experienced. When I turn into

embodiments of the other, my story is not remolded retrospectively. Nor is it given

new contents. Instead, one out of many possible stories with many possible

contents is molded. [61]

If, for instance, my professional career is told as the story of a woman who

pushed her way in the male domain of science, my past turns into the story of the

success of the other, into the successful overcoming of the handicap of

otherness which is embodied with woman. Even with other sign, the same story

can be told with ethnicity, as the story of the German and her scientific career in

Denmark. The same story, however, can be told as a failure, too: as the story of a

woman, who did not achieve university employment, was not able to gain ground

in men's university. In terms of an occupant of a number of temporary project

positions, she, too, is nothing but a guest in her own presence—the presence of

the working place university. [62]

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

My project made me realize the contents of gender, that is what we tell with

gender or by using the category of gender. The examples given in the last

paragraph illustrate how my story is molded and gains meanings created in the

very moment when they are told. As mentioned above, what is told with gender is

not told with gender alone. P2 showed me that the stories of a limited or lacking

success can be transformed into a success-story if told as the story of free

marked competition and the repeatedly successful competition on the financial

resources administrated by the Danish Research Council. Reading free marked

competition and the liberalization of the access to research funding as stories

central to the legitimation of restrictive Danish research politics, the university

position would be quite the opposite, that is public welfare and thus non-

competitive. It would be the university position, which would signify a limited

success. [63]

The contents of these stories turn into my multiple presence and thus gain

meanings hitherto unknown to me and contribute to an advanced understanding.

For example, only in p2 it became clear to me that the insecurities being an

inevitable element of employment in third-party funded projects may be counted

as a bigger success than a regular university position. In the narrative with

ethnicity the handicap to be overcome is no longer being a woman, but the

successful overcoming of differences of language and culture, or the enrichment

of Danish science by precisely those differences, which then turn into a gainful

supplement. As p2 showed me, the overcoming of differences of language and

culture can be narrated from the perspective of a woman, as well be narrated

with woman, even if, for instance, university life is described as men's culture, the

language of science as men's language. A woman researcher thus may be seen

as an enriching supplement to university culture (female modes of communi-

cation, women's adaptability to languages), because differences in culture and

language are told through woman. This is the case where those differences turn

into the basis for demands on the employment of women in scientific positions. In

this case, the implicit goal is an enrichment of university science by

supplementing it with the other. Here, I think of the report "Gender equality in

research" [Ligestilling i forskning] issued for the Danish Ministry of Research. [64]

Those categorizations, too, partly became my self in relations to others, partly I

already described them as my self. If the other is molded as woman or foreigner,

and if I as the other am signified as culture-being, then culture turns into the

contents of the categories of foreigner or woman and thus into their

characteristic. As opposed to that, the respective others (Danes, men) are not

culture, but do have a culture. Here, what is repeated is the opinion expounded

as problem by gender studies, that woman are a gender while men have a

gender. And it turns into the past, if emigration is conceptualized as a new

beginning. Since the past is not congruent with the present, I in this sense, too,

turn into a guest. What is narrated with ethnicity, gender and competition in

research, what turns into stories of failure or success, before that were stories

told by me about me, stories which I attached importance of something personal.

If these narratives turn into narratives of my person, whether told by myself or by

somebody else, a story positioned becomes my story, my presence, strange

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

contents turn into own contents, the own turns into the strange and thus into

something of peripheral significance. This way, parallel narratives of my self and

of my lived emerged. They made it clear to me that my own past and present

blur, that the strange past in a multiple understanding is the own present. The

categories of first and second country as embodied in the category of nation, turn

out to be categories parallel to past and present, to foreigner and to native

residents. [65]

Thus, the question that arose my interest in p3 is not: What can be experienced?

Rather, the interesting questions are: What can be categorized and narrated as

the experienced? How is it told? Which categories are used to embody what?

Which effects maybe obtained by this, that is, how do they signify and thus give

meaning to the stories? [66]

3. Cultural Interviewing and Transcribed Culture

3.1 Transcripts as history and presence

In consequence, the parallelism of signifiers led me to the conception of p3. I

already mentioned that p3 is based on interviews. However, it is not the

interviews themselves, but the transcripts of the interviews which provide the

grounds for further analysis. Here, I want to argue in favor of the multidisciplinary

status of those transcripts. Transdisciplinary work is a consequence of those

processes I attempted to show above. It, too, is a consequence of my training as

a historian. Therefore, I reflected on the scientific work with interviews, since

interviews in a conventional view might not be considered to be proper data

material for historical science. [67]

In the completed projects, my sources were historical texts. However, despite

their historicity, these text turn into the present when I attach certain meanings to

them: like, for instance, as a window into the essence of what I had experienced

and signified as second country, or if I use those sources in order to gain new

meanings of the story of my own life for then to be able to tell it in new ways.

This, too, is an example for history turning into lived presence. The past turns into

the current, the current into the traditional. Those meanings only emerge in the

presence of an analysis of current historical source material and of sources

present as historical. [68]

The parallel developments of the narratives of what I experienced and

understood allow me not only to consider the material of the projects designed as

history projects on leaders, research politics and gender as being current

material. The interview material of my ongoing research project, can also be

considered a historical source for material. Common for all three projects is the

pursuit of a multitude of signifying practices in the analysis. [69]

Transcripts as well as sources designated as historical have in common that the

boundaries between the research-object and the researcher-subject cannot be

drawn unequivocally. Transcripts are interpretations of those data created by me.

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

Transcripts are interpretations of the data created by me, composed by a choice

of interviewees, themes and questions. Based on tape recordings, the transcripts

are written by a third party and analyzed by me. Who, then, is the originator of

those sources? Here, as it is true in historical science, the scientist attaches both,

importance and, by means of perception and position, contents to the sources: s/

he chooses the problem, and collects material according to criteria assigned by

herself. S/he composes the material and, by the way she composes it, confers

certain meanings to it. It is in the analysis itself that those "creata" become the


embodiment of possible answers to these questions. It is in the analysis the

"creata" turn into a body of text which mediates the illusion of unity as well as

homogeneity. [70]

Here as well the question for the origin of meanings and contents mediated as

results can neither be answered in unequivocal, universal and separated

categories, nor in terms of individual subjectivity or subjective individuality of the

originator of both, the sources and the results. As is the historian, so is the

interviewing researcher a designer of her own sources and as such of the

foundation for the analysis, which embodies a past determined and produced by

herself. These questions have been discussed by historians inspired by

poststructuralism. However, they and their theoretical foundations are hardly

implanted in the scientific work of historians. [71]


Based on this, transcripts, too, are historical sources. Historical as well as

transcribed sources are from a number of viewpoints parallel to each other, also

regarding the way they come into existence. Both may be considered to be a

result of what BELSEY (2001) labeled a construction of personal relations which

serve the interest of the scientist. When perceiving transcripts as the narrated,

then they are parallel to the time when the interview was taking place. This is the

case, even if what constitutes the content of the narrative that sometimes

happened half a year ago or sometimes thirty years ago. The narrated is parallel

to the transcribed narrative. Whatever it is that is narrated, it is mediated in

narratives. Those narratives do no embody a self. Instead, they are language

embodied in the transcript. As such, they do not allow access to an individual

subject as they are embodied in the figure of the interviewee. [72]

3.2 Inclusion of those coming from a respective outside

In my source material on twenty years of Danish research politics I only found a

half a dozen of scientists made visible as ethnic non-Danes within Danish

7 Wendy STAINTON-ROGERS (2000) suggested that the English term "data" ought to be

displaced by the term "creata" (as quoted in BENDIX & STAUNÆS, 2000, p.9). According to

BENDIX and STAUNÆS, this is a challenge on two levels: A challenge of an epistemological

rationalism and universalism as well as of ontological essentialism. Data are not passive, they

do not speak for themselves, they do not simply wait somewhere to be collected, but they are

created according to predefined criteria. Creata is always produced from several contexts and in

the co-work of several actors. In this sense, creata is neither pure text, nor pure data.

8 To my knowledge, interviews by now are applied as social and political science methods, or in

psychology. However, they are not acknowledged as a method for creating historical sources.

Equally, neither the term cultural interviewing nor the concept embraced by it can be found in

existing scientific literature.

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

research communities. Next to the scientifically recognized and life-historically

known, there also was a moment of irritation about what is invisible in the source

material: ethnic non-Danish minorities, women or certain scientific fields, despite

of all of them making numerous highly qualified and valuable contributions to

society. This irritation, too, led me to the outline of the ongoing project. Here, too,

the perspective of the parallelism of categorizing signifiers came to bear. These

designated national strangers are disproportionately considered as criminals who

cannot be integrated into the society. These engendered strangers present either

problems or contribute necessary, but not satisfactory supplements for instance

to the economy or science. There are fields in the scientific research that are

designated for the outsiders, which are seen as economically unproductive and

therefore lack societal relevance. [73]

The categorization of positioned relations is discursively mediated. It gives mean-

ing to categorizations as gender, research, ethnicity and evokes homogenizing

perceptions of clearly distinguishable communities. At the same time, the

meaning of the inclusive exclusivity of those communities is reproduced. Through

this, the perception of the homogeneity of those privileged within a society

(researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs) as well as of privileged communities is

nourished. The differences between categories are thus produced. They may

then be essentialized as barriers. The imagined communities of a "we," however

categorized, create a distance to a respective other, which is excluded from this

community. If this difference is understood as gender or as ethnicity, then the

distance between an imagined community and a equally imagined other gain

meaning as, for instance, a barrier, or as exclusion. [74]

Thought as parallels, however, the imagined communities may as well mean a

(always) positioned inclusion of those, which in a multiple sense "come from the

outside." This means, that communities as those of university researchers may

be characterized with outset in both, communities of the other, and a multiple

"coming from the outside." [75]

To pick inclusion out as a central theme results from the understood as well as

from what I experienced: the focus on exclusions reproduces systems of

difference in their diverse categorizations, legitimating and naturalizing them.

Often, exclusion gains legitimating meanings when treated as ethnicity, as gender

and as science, thus embodying them. This conceptual necessity, too, follows

from a point made by LATHER and SMITHIES (1997, p.196): "Any act of

exclusion can preface exclusion based on ... whatever is identified as danger at a

given moment of history." This, too, is true if exclusions and their cultural

essentializations are picked as a central theme. In the Danish enterprise of

science, both, men and theoretical and methodological preferences of scientists

appear to be categorizations of what once came in from the outside. This, as well,

led me to diverge from my original plan that is to divide my interviewees in half

women and half men, half foreigners and half Danes. If I had stuck to this plan I

would have reproduced signifiers legitimating exclusion and/or marginalization.

Instead, the multiple meanings of "coming from the outside" became the base for

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

the choice of interviewees. For inclusion, the main theme of the project implies a

"coming from the outside." [76]

"Coming from the outside" may be embodied in multiple signifiers. For the design

of my project on the relation of ethnicity, gender and university science it thus

was necessary to choose my interviewees not only among the scientists who

came from universities abroad to Denmark. My informants, too, had to cover

persons who migrated to Denmark where they were raised long before they

started on a university education. A contact person from a second country who I

had emailed in order to get the name and the address of a potential interviewee

remarked as following on my plan to interview half Danish and half foreign

scientists: "Even though I studied here and did not come to Denmark after having

finished my degree abroad, this does not mean at all that I did find myself in a

more favorable position." It became obvious to me that outside was not limited at

all to coming from outside the country, as I until then had interpreted and

naturalized what I experienced. In fact, if I would have hold on to the original

design, I would have made outside and outsider the cultural essence of foreign

ethnicity, these implicit precondition of my project not to be escaped and thus to

be reproduced in my future results. In this response, I recognized another

repetition of the theme coming from the outside, wrapped in another narrative

which until then had escaped my attention. I asked this contact person as well to

give me an interview. Thus, the representativity of my material is to be found in

the multiple meanings which are attached to outside, in what is experienced as

outside, how outside is experienced and with which signifiers outside is formed.

This includes Danes with diverse work experiences abroad as well as Danes

crossing universities, as well as scientists, who came as the children of migrants

to this country or who have been born here, studied here and who followed

scientific employment abroad. [77]

The criteria for foreigner, meaning a scientist coming from abroad, had been

altered and the gate was widely opened to multiple meanings of ethnicity. The

criteria were altered, too, because otherwise I would have equaled narrating as or

with ethnicity with the physical presence of a foreigner. Therefore, I interviewed

Danes as well and varied the query for the meanings of their ethnicity for the

every-day life within the scientific enterprise as well as for their scientific work. To

give an example, I posed the question what it would mean for their every-day life

and their research that they are Danes. By taking this approach I multiplied the

significations of what it means to have crossed various research units; it, too, may

mean the crossing of institutions within a country, or the crossing of institutions in

both, the first and in second countries. [78]

If ethnicity not only circumscribes what is foreign to a nation, then the choice of

ethnic non-Danes crossing universities meets this criteria of my project, too. A

further problem of the original criterion was that I implicitly acted on the

assumption that only visible ethnicity would matter and imply meanings, that

ethnicity formed as a stranger would not be of any importance if it could not be

experienced on the spot. This, too, would have reproduced cultural essent-

ializations. Therefore, the interview with a scientist working at an institute where

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

exclusively Danes were employed was included in the material. All those

alterations became necessary because I in the original design would have

reproduced those preconditions, its meanings I intended to be the object of the

analysis. Thus, the denaturalization of essentialized subjects and subjectified

essences starts already with the definition of the criteria for the choice of

interviewees. [79]

Starting point for the choice of interviewees is the multitude, diversity, and variety

of the moldings of outside: Danes crossing Danish universities, Danes crossing

several universities abroad, Danes by choice, that is Danes who chose Danish

citizenship with or without Danish higher education, Danish minorities with

experiences from several universities, for instance universities in an often 3rd

Scandinavian country, experiences with universities from two or three different

countries, and so on. The diversity of the signifiers is a necessity in order to break

through the thinking in and as differences, which is at the bottom off inclusion,

too. Even inclusion implies the imagination of a community and thus an implicit

other. The distinction is not that much rooted in the question, whether the other is

conceptualized as part or as exclusion of another other, or whether it is

conceptualized as excluded form this other. Rather, the core of the distinction is

that a multiple other is drawn on in order to characterize as community of

university employed scientists. [80]

Own narratives form into scientific problems and as list of questions to be

presented for the informants. When defining the criteria for the choice of

interviewees there is a slight risk for creating presumed norms when the

categorizations of humans are designed, considered, disapproved and chosen. In

this process, often the center of interest and the central interest of the scientist

are equaled with these categorized interests being at the core of the problem to

be inquired into. In order to avoid this risk, the criteria for the choice of informants

could not be those I selected at the starting point of my project. The intention to

mark off persons (like myself) with an academic career abroad from Danes would

have led me to circle conclusions on the meanings of gender, ethnicity and

science. [81]

The originally planned symmetrical choice of interviewees by gender, nationality

and fields would have meant that I would not only have reproduced what is known

by me, but also its essentialist meanings, which thus would have been

naturalized. I would have ended up describing and analyzing essences

conceptualized as culture. According to widely spread modern scientific traditions

and traditional scientific character, I then would have concluded on

generalizations and on generalized assertions on academics, foreigners, Danes,

women and men as well as on the professional affiliations of human or natural

scientists as reasons for the narrated. The narrated would have been equated

with that what either I or the interviewees have experienced; thus, it would have

been turned into a re-presentation of a reality external to language and text. The

transcripts, then, would have been treated as speech documenting truth, the

spoken itself would have been understood as identical with this truth, and the

transcripts would have gained meaning as documented proofs of such truths. As

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

a consequence of a privileging practice and essentializing generalization like this

I would not only create the true academic foreigner, the true woman, the true

man, the true scientist/ researcher. I would as well re-produce the differences

naturalized these ways as the natural origin of the themes touched upon in the

interviews. [82]

A further problem I ran into was that I would have uplifted gender, nationality and

professionalism as the natural sources for processes of exclusion. Making these

categories the outspoken center of my inquiries, I would have taken outset in all

three categories to be central to the experiences expressed in the interviews.

Thus, I would have expelled any possibility for the interviewees to bring

categories central to them, which could have been equally important to the

categories of my interest, or even more important as those categories chosen by

me. It therefore became important to me not to use those categories of my

interest in the interview. I worked with a displaced focus, making themes and not

categories the center for inquiry. Otherwise, another problem would have been

that I would have anticipated the meanings of ethnicity in and for the enterprise of

science as pre-given or pre-existing. Had I stuck to the original plan of all

interviewees being employed at institutes where they, too, work with colleagues

from abroad, this would have contributed to the reproduction of a cultural es-

sentialization of the other. This criterion was altered: the fact that there was one

scientist from abroad at the institute, that is my interviewee, was sufficient. [83]

In the style of SCOTT (1991), I label both, the narratives available as transcripts,

and the narratives being the contents of each transcript, parallel narratives

dealing with the theme of inclusions: what has been experienced as inclusion as

well as what the interviewees experienced only in the situation of the interview,

giving it the meaning of inclusion. The transcript itself is a narrative, since it is an

interpretation of previous interpretations. Steinar KVALE (1997) argues that a

transcript already is an interpretation of a taped record. However, in addition the

transcript has to be regarded as one out of several parallel interpretations of the

situation of the interview. The situation of the interview itself is an interpretation of

what happens between the inquiring and the narrating scientist. The tape record

is yet another interpretation of what went on in the interview itselfwhat has been

seen, felt, smelt is not transmitted, only what may be heard. And then again, what

I have heard and what the tape recorder has recorded still might not be the same.


Reflections on my own point of departure led me to the insight that transcripts are

narrated interpretations and interpreted narratives. Transcripts are written

interpretations not of spoken, but of heard language. The heard language is an

interpretation of the taped language, and this sound-language again is an

interpretation of both, the lived interview and the interview lived through. The

transcript and the lived interview are by no means identical, but they are parallel

linguistic formations and as such narratives. Transcripts are what is left of the

meaning-giving language of the lived interview. As such, transcripts are artifacts,

in which difference is created and a respective other is classified, determined,

established, specified, molded and filled with contents. Artifacts consist of chosen

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

language constituting meaning. The interpreted narratives and narrated

interpretations are compositions of systems of difference. As such, they are

always to be understood as situated and positioned within the frame of what is

given in a certain moment. Therefore, artifacts do not offer any basis for univocal

and universalizing generalizations in the language of a "master-voice" (LATHER

1995). [85]

3.3 Interview on the level of the signifier

A further starting point for p3 was that I began to differentiate between the reality

of my experience and experienced realities. The reading of Joan W. SCOTT's

(1991) brilliant professional article on "The evidence of experience" made it clear

to me that it has to be differentiated between factual experiences and what has

been experienced as facts, experience embodied in facts. What is molded as my

experiences, what is naturalized in them is a representation of what already had

been known by me, what has been perceptible and recognizable to me. What I

know is not remembered experience, but what I experience as recollected. This,

too, applies to interviews: Transcripts are not narrated experiences, but

interpretations of situated and positioned experienced narratives, which come into

existence as a product of what has been experienced in the process of the

interview. [86]

Neither what I experience myself, nor the narratives turned into documents when

molded as transcripts are transparent. Transcripts are no representations of

experience; in this regard, they are no representations of reality, either.

Transcripts are as real as the narratives they contain and those narrating. Those

realities are discursively mediated, situated and positioned. Transcripts are not

reports originating in the individual subject and what s/he has lived through. Only

when the narratives are subjectivized an embodiment of the narrated is produced,

and the imagination of a body as source is facilitated. Such an approach would

disguise the discursive practices, which organize those narratives. Speakers do

not invent the systems within which they act. Rather, those systems provide the

grounds for their speech (POTTER 1996, p.81) and as such for their narratives,

too. This means that not only gender, but transcripts as well may be analyzed as

"signifying practices" (SCOTT 1988). [87]

Phenomenon which we make accessible in terms of subjects cannot be ascribed

some universal or culturally independent existence. Subjects are positioned

embodiments of a respective discursive other which either in an accepting or in

an antagonistic way is integrated in the narratives on the self (SONDERGAARD

1999). To treat transcripts as accesses to an essence of subjects means to

understand them as being independent of language and of structures of

difference, not as access to experience and to what may be experienced, but as

mediators of experience. Transcript and subject would be treated as being

identical, the transcript would turn into the essence of a subject. Gender, ethnicity

and professionalism may in general social science common sense be pre-

comprehended and conceptualized as a dimension of the interviewee which is

structuring the very essence of the experience. The question of how the person is

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

experienced, and what is embodied as person, turns into a minor point. This

applies to the interview technique as well. [88]

What is necessary for the interview from a cultural studies point of view is to

avoid the reproduction of logical truisms, the logic of the parallel moldings of the

systems of difference (RITTENHOFER 2001b). As BELSEY (2001) has

formulated it for cultural history, we need to do an "analysis on the level of the

signifier." An analysis of transcripts does not give insights in the lives of individual

subjects, who, such defined as the object for analysis, would turn into the

embodiment of objects. This objectivized subject, then, would turn into a signifier

of the transcript, brought to it from the outside, the transcript would in turn

become its embodiment. It is important to analyze the transcripts on the grounds

of the signifiers which they contain, to inquire what, when and how was signified,

and this as well across the limits of the individual transcripts often paralleled with

individuals. The entirety of the transcripts is thinned for patterns and structures.

When analyzing the transcripts, a focus may be the exploration of the

parallelisms in the narrated, of instabilities and contradictions. [89]

In the interview, the narrated turns into narratives. Interviews are not documents

of experience. Since narration and language cannot be separated from each

other, question and interview inquiry cannot be separated from language, either.

This means, that questions have been as open as possible for the meanings

established by the interviewees when talking about specific themes. BELSEY

(2001, p.302) points out that signifiers do determine how we understand the

world. Apart from that, they determine how we understand ourselves as well as

how we are understood. If we do interview on the level of the signifier, this

means, too, that the conceptualization of the transcripts, the meanings we ascribe

them, is the crucial key to their understanding. [90]

In order to find out whether, and given that case, when themes are embodied in the

signifiers of my interest (gender, ethnicity, science/research), and whether these

themes are exclusively embodied in them, it was necessary to displace the focus

of the questions in my interview guide. The necessity to decentralize the


categories of my interest, lead me to divide the theme of inclusion into three

subordinate themes: the encounter with the workplace, the encounter with the

environs of the research institutions, and the encounter with the colleagues. [91]

9 Cultural interviewing is not an interview supported by an classical interview guide. Cultural

interviewing is a further development of the narrative interview on the grounds of the principles

and strategies of discourse analysis and deconstruction. Therefore, a brief remark about the

interview guide would be appropriate. In order to acknowledge the specificity of cultural

interviewing, detailed information on this interview guide is not necessary. For the themes and

not the questions are of central importance. The prepared questions are like an access to an

entrance into a theme. I only rely on them if one of the themes I have chosen is not touched

upon in the course of the interview. The interview guide was never used as an entity. In the case

that I relied on one of the questions, this question was phrased considering both, the situation

as a whole and what has already been addressed. The goal is to make one of the themes of my

interest a subject of the interview. Hence, the prepared questions are not simply read from a

piece of paper. In this sense, the term interview guide might be misleading. Since this term in

the more classical interview types already has a definite and pregiven meaning, I want to stress

here that interview guide here is used in the sense of a sign post, guidelines, an advisor.

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

An interview on the level of the signifier is what I labeled with the term cultural

interviewing. It starts with the selection criteria for interviewees and covers the

definition of themes as well as the method for analysis. This means, that the

contextual relations and their contexts are to be found in the transcripts,

embodied as culture, and not be external to them. Otherwise, I would essentialize

and reproduce existing notions as causalities. Even though the relation of the

three signifiers is the core of my interest, I displaced the focus of my interview so

that I would only explicitly bring them up myself in case of that they would not be

touched upon by the interviewee. The prepared questions serve as guidelines

and are only used if the themes do not come up by themselves. All interviewees

were asked the same opening question. I ask them to tell me about the first days

at the workplace where they were employed at the time the interview was taking

place. I not only attempt to analyze "on the level of the signifier," I also query the

interviewees on this level. [92]

3.4 "One always is a bit more like a guest"

The following excerpt from a transcript is yet another example for the parallelism

of the categories of ethnicity or being a stranger, gender and profession. What I

described above as the multiple ways of being a guest is here circumscribed as

"being a bit more like a guest." This means, that it is neither settled in being-a-

stranger nor in being-a- woman. (The interview was performed in Danish and is

translated by me into English. Information regarding dates or profession is made


Scientist: I never run into any barriers, but I worked really hard, because I was a

foreigner, and maybe because I am a woman, too ... I am very conscious of that I

might be, that , that I have to accomplish a little bit more than the average, and the

average is high, so it is not about that ... In the same way, as I notice it, for instance,

as a minority in this country, as I feel that one has to behave a little bit better than

most, because, because one is more visible, and because one (in quotation marks) is

a little more a guest, isn't one, and this, and one may continue to be this, even if one

has lived here [for many, many] years. [93]


One of my interests in p3 is concerned with the diverse ways of coming from the

outside. The concept of parallel category, which emerged from the intersection of

language and what I have researched and experienced, not only has

consequences for how I selected the interviewees. It had consequences for the

interrogating technique, too. The following excerpt is taken from the same

transcript. It is meant to show that the concept of parallel category also influenced

the questions I asked in the interview.

10 [Interview 5, original speech researcher]: Jeg har aldrig mødt nogen, øh, nogen forhindringer,

men jeg har gjort mig utroligmeget umage, fordi jeg var fremmed, og måske også fordi jeg var

kvinde.... [J]eg er mig det meget bevidst, altså jeg er meget bevidst, at jeg måske et eller andet

sted, at øh, at jeg skal yde en lille smule mere end gennemsnittet, og gennemsnittet er højt

altså, det er ikke det.... På samme måde som, som, som jeg fornemmer det, for eksempel, som,

øh, som minoritet i et land, at jeg føler, at man må opføre sig en lille smule mere ordentligt end,

end de fleste, for, øh, fordi man er mere synlig, og fordi man er i gåseøjne lidt mere gæst, ikke,

og det, det kan man blive ved med at være, når man så har boet her i [x] år.

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

Me: But this feeling of being a stranger, of having to accomplish more or maybe of

having to legitimate that you are now in a certain position, do you have this feeling,

too, when you work out of house, so to speak, when you cooperate in the hospital

with physicians who do not necessarily have any appreciation for a [member of her

profession] or for your research? Do you then have this feeling, too? Or is it primarily

connected with that you come from another country?

Scientist: Yes, there, I think that there you've got a point, that I have the same feeling,

that one has to make an extra effort as a [member of her profession] when

cooperating with physicians, for example to be more precise ... Eh, in order to

antagonize a stereotypical picture, I believe that is at the core of this feeling, it is a

desire to reduce stereotypes.

Me: On [members of her profession]?

Scientist: Yes, for example, on foreigners, on [members of her profession], isn't it,

when I say that I work harder, then this is due to that one doesn't fight one's

colleagues prejudices, looking at it this way, but one fight's some stereotypes, doesn't

one ... Eh, one strives for, or I strive for, for instance, for not coming late for an

appointment, don't I, otherwise you do have a southern feeling of time. I strive more

for expressing myself as precisely as possible at all, and, eh, and, and I am as much

in charge of my criteria as possible at all, that is when I work, when I cooperate with

physicians, because there, too, exists a stereotype image of the crazy [member of a

profession] , which, which is beyond my control, their world, you know, so there, I

sure believe that, eh when I say that I make a larger effort, what I really mean is that

in those relations I enter into, that I work very much in favor of, I do not want to say

that I am subversive, that is I am not rebellious, but, but to shake things up a little bit,

eh, people's firmly anchored images of people, not to peg me this way, but to change

those images they might have on [members of her home country], or on women, or

on [members of her profession] by virtue of myself, you know ... [94]


11 Interview 5, Original [P = Interviewee, I = Interviewer]. I: Men den der følelse af at være

fremmed, at skal gøre noget ekstra eller måske retfærdiggøre, at man nu sidder i en bestemt

position, har du det for eksempel også, hvis du, når du arbejder uden for huset, så at sige, ikke,

når du arbejder på et hospital sammen med nogle læger, som måske ikke nødvendigvis har en

forståelse for en [fagperson] eller for, for din forskning? Har du så også den følelse? Eller har

det mest at gøre med, at du kommer fra et andet land?

P: Ja, det, det tror jeg, du, du har ret i, at jeg har den samme følelse, at man, når man

samarbejder med læger, så skal man gøre sig ekstra anstrengelse som [fagperson], øh, for

eksempel for at være mere præcis ... Øh, (pause) for at modvirke et, øh, et stereotypt billede,

altså jeg tror, det er det, øh, som er kernen i denne følelse, det er et, et ønske om at nedbryde


I: Om [fagpersoner]?

P: Ja, for eksempel, om fremmede, om [fagpersoner], ikke, hvis, hvis jeg, hvis jeg siger, jeg gør

mig mere umage, så er det fordi, man, man kæmper ikke imod sine kollegers fordomme, sådan

set, men man kæmper imod nogle stereotyper, ikke... Øh, man gør sig mere umage for, eller jeg

gør mig mere umage for, for eksempel at komme til tiden til aftaler, ikke, fordi ellers har man

sydlandske tidsfornemmelser. Jeg gør mig mere umage for at udtrykke mig så præcist som

overhovedet muligt, og, øh, og, og have, øh, orden i mine, øh, kriterier så meget som

overhovedet muligt, altså, når jeg arbejder, samarbejder med læger, fordi der er også et

stereotypt billede om lala [fagpersoner], som, som ikke har styr på, på deres verden og sådan

noget, altså der, der tror jeg nok, at det, øh, når jeg siger, at jeg gør mig mere umage, så i

virkeligheden det jeg mener, det er, at jeg er i, i de sammenhænge hvor jeg er, så, så tror jeg, at

jeg arbejder meget for at, jeg vil ikke sige, jeg er subversiv, altså jeg er ikke oprørsk, øh, men,

men at øh, at ryste lidt de, øh, fastsatte forankrede billeder for folk, til ikke at sætte mig i, i, i bås

på den måde, men også at forandre via mig de billeder, de måtte have, hvordan [nationalitet] er,

eller hvordan kvinder er, eller hvordan [fagpersoner] er, og sådan noget.

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

The concept of the development of parallel narratives has further consequences

for p3. The narratives contained in the interviews as well as the respective

interviews themselves are read and analyzed crosswise as parallel narratives on

the theme of inclusion. However, it would go beyond the scope of this article to go

into further details. At the core of the analysis is not the factuality of the events

described in the transcripts. Rather, I focus on events which are told, how they

are told, as to what is told, through which signifiers they take shape and become

meaningful, and through which categories they are legitimatized. In order to be

able to question the meaning of gender and ethnicity which often is understood

as some kind of essentialism, I inquire into whether being-a-guest is limited to

those two categories. [95]

The parallelism of signifiers is a consequence of the everlasting fugacity of

signifying and labeling practices in which they are embodied. Being a guest is not

only a question of nation, it, too, may be a question of gender, of professionalism,

of the job situation etc. History is transforming into histories, into parallel histories.

The excerpt is meant to illustrate that professionalism, too, may be told as

foreign-ness, that with professionalism, too, the inclusion of the other may be

narrated. At the same time, the excerpt is meant to illustrate that the community

of scientists always is made up of as always positioned other. In this sense,

universities are not other cultures, but cultures of the other or even cultures

cultivating the other. Thus, homogeneity may obtain the meaning of

heterogeneity. [96]

The transcripts of p3 not only present how the experienced gains meanings, but

adds as well meanings to this experienced and thus does vary it. Phrased in the

language of difference, this it what is experienced as emigration into a multiple

other, formed as nation or as system of science or university system. Here,

emigration means the transgressing of what is perceived as boundaries, in order

to move into new spaces created by categorizations and turning into signifiers.

Formulated in a language transgressing these boundaries it is the migration of

scientists within the sciences, the universities, the academic spaces like the

centers for gender studies. Thus origins, proveniences become fictions without

meaning. In the interviews it therefore is of the greatest importance that the

narratives on all three themes contain a comparative perspective. [97]

4. Multiple Understanding and its Fugacity: Conclusions

The long-term stay abroad made it a necessity to acknowledge the cultural in the

personal and to experience the personal as the cultural as well as to understand it

with language. Not the employment abroad, but the reflection on what I express

with employment abroad, does change the perspective on what I researched and

experienced. What I researched and experienced transformed: something

relatively unequivocal and given, like foreigners at Danish universities, changed

into multiple and diverse ways of narrating the theme of an arrival from the

outside. This can be labeled a fugacious. Both, the central thesis of the

concluded projects, and the approach of the ongoing project are presented here.

Neither would have been possible without the lived diversity. This diversity can no

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

longer be expressed unequivocally and unchangeably, nor can it be signified in

the language of the exclusive other: in terms of times, countries, languages,

subjects or cultures. Thus it is the duplication of the signifying practices, which in

itself is a consequence of the duplication of my own languages, which maybe

narrated as enrichment. Again, this enrichment may be narrated with the long-

term scientific employment in a second country. I am able to narrate, to analyze,

to understand and to learn with a multitude of signifying practices. This multitude

would not have been accessible to me without the reflections on those processes,

which I at first understood with a stay abroad and then analyzed and explored it

as a stay abroad. The consequence is not that I have got a new past, a new

present, but that my narratives have been duplicated which, respectively pointed

out as present, as past, may gain the meaning of something present, something

past. Meanings of already well-known narratives, told with life and research, are

duplicated. [98]

I contrasted differences narrated as time with the blurring of past and present. I

related as well to the parallelism of categories like time and space. Depending on

how I narrate my present, research and researched transform their meanings.

This leads to a transformed understanding, which is related to the parallelism of

categories: that is, the common characteristic of difference embodied in the

respective signifier. The result is an aggravated attention towards scientific

developments transgressing countries, persons and languages. The constant

blurring of boundaries makes the multidisciplinarity of my own work even more

urgent and leads to the development of a concept for qualitative research, which I

labeled cultural interviewing. [99]

The metaphor of "a guest in my own present" chosen as a headline for this

contribution illustrates my central points, aiming at the denaturalization of

subjectifying categories like the emigrant. I try to make it feasible how I came to

my central view: the positioning of emigrants is not at all about subject positions,

but is about one out of many possibilities to subjectify positions the perception of

which is culturally conditioned. Both, subjectifications and meanings, always

come into existence in the respective present. Both are as elusive as this present

itself in which they get multiplied. Therefore, everybody, whether an emigrant or

not, is always a guest in their own present. As a consequence of this, emigration

may be positioned as a precondition for being-a-guest. However, emigration is

not necessarily a precondition for this, no matter if we refer to the self-positioning

of an emigrant or not. [100]

Crucial for my scientific work is what can be narrated, experienced, understood

and reflected with my long-term scientific employment in a second country. [101]

© 2002 FQS




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Dispensa al corso di Sociologia delle relazioni interculturali della Prof.ssa Enrica Tedeschi. Trattasi del saggio di Iris Rittenhofer sull'interculturalità e sul lavoro dei ricercatori all'estero. Esso verte parzialmente sul resoconto autobiografico dell'autrice, in parte su interviste ad altri ricercatori. Lo scopo del lavoro è evidenziare l'influenza dei condizionamenti culturali sulla ricerca sociologica.

Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in relazioni internazionali
A.A.: 2011-2012

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Sociologia delle relazioni interculturali e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Roma Tre - Uniroma3 o del prof Tedeschi Enrica.

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