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Performative Listening

Hearing Others in Qualitative Research

Chris McRae

Performative Listening: Hearing Others in Qualitative Research offers an alternative theory of listening – as a performative act, or as a relational stance and performance in which listeners ethically engage in an act of learning from others across difference. This theory emerges from an interdisciplinary approach to performance studies, communication, musicology, and critical pedagogy in order to present a nuanced theory of listening as performance that is always linked to questions of context, individual experiences, and cultural expectations. Working from examples of the music and autobiography of Miles Davis, this book offers a clear and practical guide for applying performative listening in the contexts of qualitative, narrative, and arts-based approaches to research and inquiry. By emphasizing the embodied, relational, and creative functions of the highly contextual and cultural performance of listening, Performative Listening presents a theory and method that can be used to rethink the ways scholars and students engage with others in a wide variety of qualitative research and educational contexts.
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Chapter 1. Listening for Beginnings in Qualitative Research




Listen, this story might have started when I was sitting in front of the speakers in my parents’ living room as a child. The music filled the entire house. The steady drum beat and rhythmic bass line made it all but impossible to sit still. There were vocal harmonies, and probably a horn section backing the strong melody of a lead singer. This story might have started here, but I can’t be sure because it seemed like the music was always playing at home. This story might also have started when I first tried to play the trumpet at age 10. I was easily frustrated with my initial inability to produce any kind of sound that resembled music; but I kept trying and eventually learned to play. To this day, I keep playing. It’s also possible that this story started the first time I heard a recording of Miles Davis and found myself utterly confused and infinitely curious.

I’m not exactly sure where this story begins; however, the beginning of this story is only really important insofar as it is a beginning that relies on musical interactions and performances. This is the groove from which I tell my story and attempt to engage with you. And even if your story doesn’t have any musical beginnings at all, I think we can still connect. I just think it’s helpful if you know a little something about my assumptions...

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