In this issue
Qualitative Inquiry takes off
By Mark Freeman
The Society for Qualitative Inquiry (SQIP) Takes Off
These are exciting times for the Society for Qualitative Inquiry in Psychology (SQIP). As some of you know, SQIP is now officially a section in the Division of Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics (Division 5) of the APA. We recognize that for many people who pursue qualitative work – including many members of the Society for Humanistic Psychology – joining this particular division may seem surprising. How did it happen? Is it a good thing? Let me offer a brief answer to the latter question first: Yes; we believe it's a good thing. By “we,” I refer to Ken Gergen, Ruthellen Josselson, and myself, who have been working toward forging this alliance for several years; to our newly formed Executive Committee, which also includes Michelle Fine, Valerie Futch, Marco Gemignani, and Fred Wertz; and to the nearly 200 people who have joined the SQIP section within Division 5. As for why we believe this alliance to be a good thing, the main reason is that it offers what many of us consider a truly unprecedented opportunity for constructive transformation of the discipline of psychology.
Some background may be helpful. Our initial aim was to form a new division within the APA. But at one point, members of the Division 5 Executive Committee contacted Ken and Ruthellen (I had yet to become part of the team) about the possibility of our joining forces with them, and ultimately, it was decided that SQIP, and the discipline more generally, would be better served by doing just that. For one, comfortable though it may have been to stay within the confines of “our own” by establishing a new division, it might have further marginalized qualitative work. More positively, those of us involved in forging an alliance with Division 5 relished the prospect of being in dialogue with new and different people, including those whose fundamental orientations to inquiry might be far afield from our own. This wouldn't mean that all of our activities within the Division would be devoted to such bridge-building; becoming part of Division 5 would also mean having an official home where we, members of SQIP, could be in dialogue with one another and could collectively pursue our own interests and concerns. But the idea – and ideal – of thinking and working with others very much appealed, and still does. Some significant challenges lie ahead. Perhaps foremost among them is arriving at a more inclusive divisional name. But we have every confidence that with open and frank dialogue, a spirit of collegiality, and some hard work we can move ahead on this in the near future.
The good news is, the alliance is off to a great start. At the past two APA conventions, I have had the opportunity to attend divisional meetings and to share ideas with my new colleagues. At the most recent convention, I also had the opportunity to participate in a Division 5 symposium.
Entitled “Understanding and Predicting Violent Behavior: A Variety of Pathways” (qualitative inquiry, measurement, statistics, and program evaluation), the symposium truly felt like an auspicious beginning to the kind of cross-fertilization many of us are envisioning. SQIP will also be represented in Division 5 programming at the upcoming APA with a symposium entitled “Documenting Ourselves: Reflexivity and Subjectivity in the Conduct of Qualitative Research.” Going forward, we hope to have even more of a presence at the APA and to carry out additional collaborative work with our colleagues in Division 5.
Also important to our collaborative efforts is Fred Wertz's recent election to Section Representative to the Division 5 Executive Committee. I'm sure that those of you who know Fred are well aware of his intelligence, imagination, and energy. He is also fiercely committed to the cause of qualitative inquiry (as evidenced especially through the recent co-authored book Five Ways of Doing Qualitative Analysis [Guilford, 2011]) and equally committed to the kind intellectual sharing and bridge-building we're hoping to foster. He's therefore a critical player in this enterprise, and at this point in time especially, his work on behalf of SQIP is of inestimable value.
Some other good things are happening too. A new APA journal, Qualitative Psychology , is currently in the making and should be out within the year. Ruthellen Josselson is serving as Editor and is joined by an outstanding group of Associate Editors (David Frost, Phil Hammack, Suzanne Kirschner, and Jefferson Singer) and Editorial Board. Ken Gergen and I will also be serving as Consulting Editors for the Journal and look forward to doing whatever we can to move it forward. Establishing the Journal is amazing opportunity, and we'll all be doing our very best to see that it thrives in the coming years.
There's more: We've got a listserv going, and plans are afoot for making it a more active and dynamic site for sharing ideas. Our website is up and running and we'll be adding to it regularly. We'll also be spreading the good word about SQIP at the upcoming Day in Qualitative Psychology as well as at the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign next month. And, not least, we're currently in the process of planning a combination conference/celebratory “SQIP Soiree” next fall at the City University of New York. Lots of people have been working hard, and it's time for a party!
There's more that I could tell you about our activities and hopes for the future. For now, though, I will just reiterate that these are these are exciting times for SQIP – and, we like to think, for the discipline of psychology. Throughout much of its history, qualitative work has remained on the margins of the discipline. Some may be resigned to this marginal status – but not those who are seeking jobs in the field or grant opportunities or who are committed to seeing qualitative inquiry become a fully legitimate part of the psychology curriculum. In our view, “business as usual” is not enough. We can no longer afford to segregate our work from the collective work of the discipline, and we can no longer rest content being on the margins. Many of us do of course remain committed to carrying out the sort of meaningful, innovative critique qualitative inquiry often provides. But we are equally committed to integration – which is to say, to helping build the kind of inclusive, intellectually pluralistic discipline psychology might yet become.
As I close this review of our efforts to date, I want to offer a gentle plea to those of you interested in qualitative inquiry who have yet to become a member of SQIP within Division 5: Please consider joining us. Everyone, including students, can join (though only full APA members will have voting rights). Membership in the Division is free for the first year. In order to join, you can do so online. Upon joining, you will receive a follow-up email from APA Division Services asking you to select a primary section and will also be able to select secondary and tertiary sections. Please keep an eye out for this email as it might go to your spam/bulk folder! If you wish to join our listserv, you can do this as well.
To those of you who have already joined us, I offer a heartfelt thank you on behalf of SQIP. And to those of you who have yet to join us, I very much hope you will consider doing so soon. We believe this to be an historic and vitally important moment in furthering the self-realization of the discipline of psychology, and we would greatly value your contribution to the cause.