For a long time now, fairly central to what has emerged as ‘psychosocial studies’ has been the notion of psychosocietal ‘defendedness’. This is the psychoanalytic notion that people (not excluding social science researchers) must be understood in general as being ‘defended subjectivities’. This immediately raises the question of the ‘defended researcher’ being sensitive to – and having procedures for detecting and interpreting the working of – such ‘defensiveness’ in the interactions of their subjects and themselves. Biography-based research raises these issues particularly strongly. One such method, known as the ‘biographical narrative interpretative method’ (BNIM) of interviewing and case interpretation, has been used in the anglophone world for more than 20 years. While BNIM prescribes an audit trail for its interpretative practices, it is rare to discover a fully audited sequence of components, and rarer still to have access to illuminating free-associative fieldnotes that catalogue the researcher’s evolving subjectivity. This article discusses defendedness in a case interpretation within a BNIM-using PhD. We conclude that, to defeat the defensiveness of both researcher and peer-auditor (the co-authors of this article), several BNIM techniques need to be used systematically and that, in particular, a ‘private and confidential’ independent peer audit is valuable under certain conditions, and should be provided for in any research proposal. Through peer audit, the researcher can be (usually uncomfortably) sensitised to new possibilities about their otherwise inadequately understood defended processes and conclusions.
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