Ontology concerns the reality of the world. Before considering the means with which we know, or the ends to which we apply our thinking, we must first decide what reality and being are. For instance, our ontological assumptions about the state of the social and natural worlds necessarily influence how we approach them. If as objectivists we are to believe that the social world is similar to the natural world in that it is governed by universal laws that operate regardless of whether or not we have discovered them, then we are likely to believe that the social world can be measured and that the “footprint” of the researcher is minimal as meaning exists external to the human actor. In this sense, our ontological assumptions motivate us – or perhaps even permit us – to seek transcendental positivist knowledge with the intention to predict. If on the other hand, we depart from a constructivist ontology (of which I find myself persuaded), we would consider ourselves to be thoroughly embedded in and inseparable from our research as actors and producers of meaning. Because of our own role in the study of and creation of meaning, the very role of the researcher is not that of an objective observer but that of an active manufacturer and consumer of meaning. Schwartz-Shea and Yanow put this quite succinctly when stating that “In interpretive research, human beings are understood not as objects, but as agents”. This, of course, includes the researcher. Thus, the researcher’s ontological assumptions impose themselves on what she or he would consider valid knowledge. While an objectivist would think social processes and conditions such as poverty or war operate according to particular “laws” and would therefore seek to measure and predict these phenomena on a universal scale, the constructivist scholar would argue that our understandings of things such as poverty and war are contextually-dependent and informed by different discourses. Instead of seeking to predict things such as war, the constructivist would opt for the study of specific grammars/structures of meaning that define what war/poverty is and how it is understood by a group of people in a specific space and time. Though both neo-positivists (largely composed of objectivists) and interpretivists (consisting mostly of constructivists) can study “issues” or “topics” ranging from war, poverty, marriage, women’s rights, etc., their respective assumptions color the methodology or research decisions to be made. The type and purpose of knowledge generated, as well as the methods (where method is a specific tool used – such as ethnography for example – methodology refers to the totality of choices made in one’s research, including a variety of decisions such as selection and operationalization of variables, etc.) are implicated by our ontological assumptions.
As already discussed, at this moment, I consider myself an intepretivist. Perhaps due to bias as a result of my appreciation for “post-colonial” and post-structuralist scholarship, I find myself very sensitive to the lack of a singular, objective truth, especially due to the mentioned role of the scholar as agent and consumer. Looking at things such as the persistence of Orientalist discourses as well as the long-standing imperviousness of race science and the conditionality of humanity in European intellectual history (ie: Hegelian non-history of the non-white “savage”, eugenics, etc.), I recognize that knowledge itself can often be an exercise of power by asserting one’s authority on the subject/object studied. As such, I gravitate towards interpretivism not because it is contextualized (as Neo-positivism can be cognizant of context as well) or because it is necessarily “harmless”, but rather because its goal implicitly recognizes a multiplicity of meanings and also, to a certain degree, because of the researcher’s self-presence. This is a rather awkward way to say that though Neo-positivism is just as rigorous with all its hypothesis testing and its own set of methodological choices, the criteria for knowledge production as per interpretivism includes things such as “cultural competence, contextually, reflexivity, and trustworthiness/credibility” which more directly or more transparently situate the researcher and their relationship to the subjects under scrutiny. In relation to what can be studied, I am (at this point in time) of the opinion that though things can be real (ie: that Pearl Harbor happened) the meaning(s) attached to occurrences or events are more subjective. In this vein, I do not have a fully-fledged list specifying what things I believe can or cannot be studied, though I do think that, departing from a constructivist ontology that perceives meaning as a result of continuous and dynamic social processes, meaning is also therefore situated as these social processes necessarily differ from place to place and across time. This means that for my research, I am interested in understanding localized constructions of meaning through an interpretivist lens. That being said, I am really excited to try methodologies that depart from other ontological assumptions so as to more critically vet my own.
 Abbott, Andrew Delano. Methods of Discovery: Heuristics For The Social Sciences. New York: W.W. Norton, 2004. Pages 43, 46-47.
 Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine, and Dvora Yanow. Interpretive Research Design: Concepts And Processes. New York, N.Y.: Routledge, 2012. Page 47.
 Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 2004.
 Class Discussion September 10, 2019.