Van Manen (2014) Annotation - Chapter 10 - Conditions for the Possibility of Doing Phenomenological Analysis
There's two critical and interrelated conditions to be met for successful phenomenological investigation. First, you need an appropriate question with proper heuristic clarity, point, and power in order to gain reflective focus. Second, you need experiential material with detail, concreteness, vividness, and lived-throughness to provide substance upon which to reflect. These conditions may be termed the appropriateness of the phenomenological question and the experiential quality of the data.
Is the Analysis Guided by a Proper Phenomenological Question?
Phenomenological questions focus "on the lived meaning of a human phenomenon that is experientially recognizable and experientially accessible" (p. 297). Phenomenological questions aren't abstract, theoretical, and conceptual and they don't ask for explanations, perceptions, views, or interpretations.
Phenomenological questions typically entail "an element of wonder: discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary, the strange in the taken for granted. A phenomenological question asks what is given in immediate experience and how it is given or appears to us--it asks what a possible human experience is like" (p. 298).
Conducting the research means collecting lived experience descriptions. "Aim to capture experiences as they are lived through. Van Manen warns against questions that ask:
- What is your opinion or view of X?
- Why do you think that Y people have X?
- Do Y people do X more than Z people?
- What are the X lives of Y people in certain Z places?
- What X do you keep from Y people?
- Do you think that X is morally wrong?
- Is this group of Y people in this Z place an X group? (p. 298)
"[P]henomenology explores the meanings of phenomena or events as lived through" (p. 298).
A phenomenological question does not aim for empirical or descriptive generalizations; it does not formulate a social scientific law of how some things or some people behave under certain circumstances; it does not test a hypothesis; it does not ask for people's opinions, views, perceptions, or interpretations of an issue or phenomenon; it does not aim at psychological, gender-based, ethnographic, or other types or explanation; it does not aim for theory development; it does not ask for moral judgments; it does not describe specific (empirical) ethnic, cultural, or social groups of people; it does not anticipate codified categories for analysis. (pp. 298-299)
Is the Analysis Performed on Prereflective Experiential Material?
"[P]henomenological analysis can only be conducted on prereflective or experiential narratives. It cannot be performed on data that consists of views, opinions, beliefs, perceptions, interpretations, and explanations of experiences.... The best materials for conducting phenomenological analysis are direct descriptions of the experience, rather than accounts about the experience" (p. 299).
"Opinions, perceptions, or beliefs are only helpful to the extent that they lead or give access to the lived experiences that lie behind these opinions, perceptions, or beliefs" (p. 300).
Existential Methods: Guided Existential Inquiry
Certain existentials or "universal themes of life" (p. 302), such as lived relation, lived body, lived space, lived time, lived things, language, and mood can assist in the exploration of human phenomena. "Existentials are helpful universal 'themes' to explore meaning aspects of our lifeworld and of the particular phenomena that we may be studying" (p. 303).
"[R]elationality may guide our reflection to ask how self and others are experienced with respect to the phenomenon that is being studied" (p. 303). To study relational aspects means asking how people or things are connected. Relations are "the intimacies that draw us to return and reunite" (p. 303). Beware of correlationism!
'[C]orporeality may guide our reflection to ask how the body is experienced with respect to the phenomenon that is being studied" (p. 304).To study corporeal aspects means asking how the body, so often passed over, perceives senses or is touched by human phenomena.
"[S]patiality may guide our reflection to ask how space is experienced with respect to the phenomenon that is being studied" (p. 305). To study spatial aspects means asking how we shape and are shaped by space or how space is experienced differently through moods.
"[T]emporality may guide our reflection to ask how time is experienced with respect to the phenomenon that is being studied" (p. 305).
"[M]ateriality may guide our reflection to ask how things are experienced with respect to the phenomenon that is being studied" (p. 306). "The things are our world in its material thinglike reality" (p. 307). To study the thingly character of a phenomenon means asking "how are 'things' experienced and how do the experiences of things and world contribute to the essential meaning of the phenomenon" (p. 307).
Recent scholarship by Harman, Bogost, Morton, Bennett and others pivoting through a "material turn" suggest that things are active members of life. "Thus, in our encounter with things, we experience the moral force they exert on and in our lives" (p. 307). "Material reflections ask how things are experienced" (p. 307).