Introduction: the research process
This chapter describes the philosophical stance that lies behind chosen methodology. It provides a context for the process and grounds its logic and criteria. Ethnographic inquiry in the spirit of symbolic interactionism seeks to uncover meanings and perceptions on the part of the people participating in the research, viewing these understandings against the backdrop of the people’s overall worldview or ‘culture’. Symbolic interactionism is a theoretical perspective that grounds these assumptions in most explicit fashion. It deals directly with issues such as language, communication, interrelationships and community. Epistemology deals with ‘the nature of knowledge, its possibility, scope and general basis’. In the Middle Ages, the great ontological debate was between realists and nominalists and concerned the extramental reality, or irreality, of ‘universals’. Historically, objectivism, constructionism and subjectivism have each informed quite a number of different perspectives. Similarly, one theoretical perspective often comes to be embodied in a number of methodologies.