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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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Introduction: Hearing Possibilities in Listening



Hearing Possibilities in Listening

Listen. When I first started playing the trumpet at age 10, I was unknowingly entering into a conversation with the legendary trumpet player, Miles Davis. When I first heard a recording of Miles Davis, at age 13 or 14, I was unknowingly called to listen for the conversation of which I was already a part. The first time I read the autobiography of Miles Davis (Davis & Troupe, 1989), Miles, I didn’t hear the explicit invitation to listen in the first line of the text, “Listen” (p. 7). I didn’t recognize the ways I was already implicated. I didn’t notice the lesson. I didn’t detect the conversation that was already happening. I wasn’t aware of my position as a student to the stories and music of Davis.

I now return to this invitation to listen, as a starting place for considering the significance of what it means to listen, or to position oneself as a listener. How are we called to listen both explicitly and implicitly by others? What is the function of responding to the call or invitation to listen? What are the ethical commitments of answering this call? How might listening work as a method of inquiry? What are the pedagogical functions of listening? In this book, starting from Davis’s call to listen, I consider the possibilities of listening in terms of qualitative research and pedagogy. I also pose my own call for performative listening as a...

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