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Conducting Hermeneutic Research

From Philosophy to Practice


Nancy J. Moules, Graham McCaffrey, James C. Field and Catherine M. Laing

Conducting Hermeneutic Research: From Philosophy to Practice is the only textbook that teaches the reader ways to conduct research from a philosophical hermeneutic perspective. It is an invaluable resource for graduate students about to embark in hermeneutic research and for academics or other researchers who are novice to this research method or who wish to extend their knowledge. In 2009, the lead author of this proposed text was one of three co-founders of the Canadian Hermeneutic Institute. The institute was created as a means of bringing together scholars of hermeneutics and hermeneutic research across disciplines in creative dialogue and conversations of philosophy, research, and practice. An outcome of this was the launch of the Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, with Nancy J. Moules serving as Editor. The work of the institute and the journal make clear that people (both students and professors) seek practical guidance on how to conduct hermeneutic research. This book is a must read for this audience.
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Chapter 5. The Address of the Topic

What Is an Address?


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“Understanding begins when something addresses us” (Gadamer, 1960/1989, p. 299). The conduct of a research study guided by the tenets of Gadamerian philosophical hermeneutics rarely has a definitive starting point or endpoint, but if one had to delineate a place where inquiry begins, it is often around the experience of being addressed personally about something at work in one’s life or practice. An address is the feeling of being caught in some aspect of the world’s regard, of being called or summoned. In this chapter, we speak to the experience and importance of the address of a topic in the working out of a hermeneutic inquiry.

Addresses catch us off guard and break through our regular routines. They cause us to pause and take note, ask not that we speak or do something immediately, but rather that we stop and listen. It is through this process of listening, or what Bruns (1992) called “reading with our ears” (p. 157), that the topic of inquiry often arrives. To listen when we are addressed means that we are vulnerable and open, that we are prepared to be guided by a topic and its own form of address, rather than assumed versions of it, or by a ← 71 | 72 → pre-determined method. As stated previously in this book, it is not the case that there is not a method in hermeneutics, but rather, that method serves the topic...

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