My name is Matthew Prior and I am an assistant professor at Arizona State University, where I teach and conduct research in the interdisciplinary fields of applied linguistics, second language (L2) and multilingualism studies, and discourse studies. I am pleased to join the QuAFE blog and its network of scholars interested in qualitative approaches to emotion research. One of my primary areas of interest is how emotion and related socio-psychological matters intersect with language and identity, particularly for L2 users and multilingual groups and individuals.
My book, Emotion and Discourse in L2 Narrative Research has just been published by Multilingual Matters/Channel View Publications (2016). In it I engage with and critique the emotional space of contemporary narrative and ethnographic research on multilingualism and transcultural belonging. Based on the published literature and interview-based studies I conducted with adult immigrants living in the US and Canada, this book brings attention to emotion as an interactional and institutional resource. The nine chapters explore the central role emotion plays in speakers’ identities and experiences through a close examination of its dynamic representation and management.
Emotionality—emotion as action, topic, and resource—forms the theoretical and analytical heart of this book. Within the research context, emotionality is an ever-present component of the identities and stories that speakers and listeners take up and avoid, and the ways in which those identities, stories, and related matters get reshaped and responded to over time. While answering questions such as How do interactants construct and manage their own and each other’s emotionality?, this book aims to make visible the emotional and interactional ‘realities’ of the researcher, the research participants, and the research.
This shifts the focus away from taxonomies and intra-psychological processes to micro-interactional resources and discursive practices (e.g., question-answer sequences, feelings talk, discursive organization, storytelling, interpretive framing, emotion formulations) in addition to macro-social concerns (e.g., immigration, displacement, discrimination, community histories). However, I avoid reifying micro-macro binaries by exploring how both are mutually constituted by and constitutive of the production and reception of this emotional work. As a means to empirically ground this investigation of emotionality and the representation of self and experience, this book advances a discursive constructionist approach that draws on ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, discursive psychology, and cognate lines of discourse analysis (e.g., Buttny, 2004; Edwards, 1997; Peräkylä & Sorjonen, 2012; Sacks, 1992).
This approach to emotion discourse and emotion management is also informed by psychological research on emotion regulation as well as Hochschild’s (2012) work on emotion labour. Along with discussing the various points of convergence between narrative interview research and therapeutic discourse, I consider the predominance of ‘negative’ (e.g., sadness, anger, fear, shame) emotionality, the resistance to ‘positive’ emotionality, and interactants’ collaborative efforts to manage distress and humour.
Finally, although I align with critiques that label some lines of contemporary qualitative inquiry as overly ‘emotionalist’ or ‘romantic’ for their tendency to elevate “the experiential as the authentic” (Silverman, 2011, p. 179), I argue that researchers should reclaim the ‘emotionalist’ label by actively attending to participants’ emotional work while pursuing greater reflexivity and analytical rigor.
Buttny, R. (2004). Talking problems: Studies of discursive construction. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Edwards, D. (1997). Discourse and cognition. London: Sage.
Hochschild, A.R. (2012). The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Peräkylä, A. & Sorjonen, M-L. (Eds.) (2012). Emotion in interaction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sacks, H. (1992). Lectures on conversation. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.
Silverman, D. (2011). Interpreting qualitative data (4th ed.). London: SAGE.