Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretivist Research
Restating my conceptual puzzle and research question from an interpretivist lens:
I am proposing to research the discourses that tied together the American Dream and homeownership because I want to investigate the construction of renting tenants as failures, underserving, and even unamerican in order to help my reader understand why redevelopment of public housing and the subsequent purging of tenants from affordable options became the only possibility for many lawmakers.
From my initial immersion in the discourses surrounding tenants and low income renting, it appears as if this redefining of homeownership as central to the American Dream was a discourse spoken into truth by actors in positions of power, most often within the government. As such I have looked, at least for now, primarily to speeches given by Presidents, politicians, and other figures of power who have engaged in such a discussion of homeownership.
The first primary source of note is President Hoover’s 1931 Message to the Annual Convention of Building and Loan Associations. Although this text does not explicitly mention the American Dream, Hoover expresses that “home ownership is more than just the provision of domiciles; it goes to the root of family life, public morals, and standard of living.” Here, home ownership is imbued with meaning beyond just the physical control of a structure on private property, but instead, the possession of a home is represented as a signifier of a more general possession of the social/familial values deemed positive by Hoover.
The second primary source comes almost 70 years later, from then HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo’s presentation of the HOVE VI Grant program to the city of Atlanta. In the speech, he contends:
Change is the entire dynamic of a family in a neighborhood. Own your own home, invest in your own home. That’s the American dream. You never heard anyone say, “The American Dream, to rent your own home.” No, the American Dream is to own your home. Make that part of the public housing experience. And most of all remember that public housing was just a physical structure, but the real gift was the gift of advancement. Get the education, get the training, and get the services into public housing so people can improve themselves and their families. Because that was the dream.
Cuomo’s speech contains a much more explicit connection between the American Dream and homeownership. In that connection are echoes of Hoover’s speech, as each imbues the concept of owning home with a form of social value. But Cuomo also defines what the American Dream is not: renting. And in that statement lends itself to an idea present in this discourse that there is a social and moral difference between renting and owning. One that I hope to explore further in the coming week.
One next step I have identified is moving beyond discourses about the concept of homeownership (or lack thereof) alone, but rather the discourse about people who do not own a home and discern the interaction and connections between those discourses.
Cuomo, Andrew. “Presentation of HOPE VI Grant to The City of Atlanta by Secretary Andrew Cuomo” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Archives. https://archives.hud.gov/remarks/cuomo/speeches/atlhope.cfm (Accessed: November 10, 2019).
Hoover, Herbert. Herbert Hoover: Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President, 1931. (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1974).
 Herbert Hoover. Herbert Hoover: Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President, 1931. (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1974), 293.
 Andrew Cuomo. “Presentation of HOPE VI Grant to The City of Atlanta by Secretary Andrew Cuomo” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Archives. https://archives.hud.gov/remarks/cuomo/speeches/atlhope.cfm (Accessed: November 10, 2019).