Making sense of discomfort: the performance of masculinity and (counter-)transference

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Thi Luong GammonVictoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

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This article features a case study about the author’s two research encounters with an emotionally reluctant male participant who seemed to experience discomfort and who also made the author feel uncomfortable. To make sense of this mutual experience of discomfort, the article explores the intersubjective exchange between the interviewer and her participant through the application of the psychoanalytic concepts of ‘defence’ and ‘(counter-)transference’. The article argues that the mutual discomfort resulted from the participant’s desire to perform masculinity in ways that fit the Vietnamese hegemonic masculinity and from the researcher’s inability to identify this desire during the interviews. By locating the participant’s engagement with hegemonic masculinity within the sociocultural context of contemporary Vietnam, and investigating the resulting discomfort, the article demonstrates how applying a psychosocial approach to a research relationship can be fruitful. It shows that such an approach can help researchers acquire unexpected insights into the psychological and social meanings of research encounters beyond an analysis of just the text, thus adding to methodological discussions about qualitative interviews.

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Thi Luong GammonVictoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

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