Research Portfolio Post 8: Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretivist Research

As per Booth et al.’s formulation, I am proposing to research the political participation of women in Weimar Germany because I want to find out why, despite increased attempts at the fulfilment of democractic ideals and the increased provision of suffrage and rights to German women, the Weimar Republic was arguably a fragile and subsequently fragile state, in order to help my reader understand the extenuating factors that impacted the failure of the government and the role of women in the same.[1]

Within the context of interpretivist research, my object of inquiry or “X” is female political participation. The primary sources that I intend to use are excerpts from the Weimar constitution and the writing of Alice Rühle-Gerstel, both of which I came across through the website of Facing History.

The research question I propose is: How did the state fragility of Weimar Germany worsen and eventually lead to state failure, despite intensive efforts to promote state stability through promotion of democratic values?”

The Weimar Constitution represents my “X” value well as it showcases concerted and detailed efforts to move towards gender equality and provide for women’s participation in the political process, which, at the time, was becoming increasingly fundamental to the existence of the Weimar republic.[2] This constitution formalised equality for men and women in the eyes of the law, as well as enfranchised women above the age of 20. The main actors who are provided a platform in this source are the government at the time and, arguably, some of liberal parties who were provided a place at the table. This connects directly to my research as it plays into the prevalent and hegemonic discourse that the Weimar government was an attempt to achieve Germany’s shift from an absolutist monarchy to a progressive democracy – leading to a short period of relative democractic stability & a golden era of liberalisation in the country.

The other source I intend to use is excerpts from the writings of Alice Rühle-Gerstel, a German who wrote about the social implications of the Weimar government and its gender-related reforms.[3] The representations of my “X” value are also present as the source relates to the ideas put forward by the constitution, with more liberal policies with regard to women and more democratic politics but unlike the constitution, it provides a different, more societal and personal experience. The actors involved were the “new” women of Germany, as Rühle-Gerstel was psychologist who focused on the 1920s social revolution that took place in Weimar but was also one of these women and experienced these changes firsthand. The source connects to my research as it creates the idea of more liberalisation and democratisation in Germany, which is often linked to decreased fragility, and allows us to look deeper into the experiences of a group that was previously disenfranchised and then increasingly allowed to participate in political processes.

[1] Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. Fitzgerald, The Craft of Research (4th ed.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016, 54.

[2] “Excerpts From The Weimar Constitution”. Facing History And Ourselves, Last modified 2019.

[3] “Women In The Weimar Republic”. Facing History And Ourselves, Last modified 2019.

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  1. Paroma,

    I really like the sources you have chosen so far to examine for your interpretivist design. Another aspect that may help you fully analyze these discourses is considering the gender dynamics of the actors who were responsible for writing the texts you identify as part of your discourse. For example, although the Weimar Constitution declares men and women as legally equal, did the committee who wrote it include women, and how many? Is the power of the discourse pushing women as equal changed based on the inclusion of those actors? This thinking could be helpful in fully understanding the nuances of the discourses you are analyzing.

    Vielen glück!

  2. Paroma — you discuss some very good data sources that would be relevant for an inquiry into representations of female political participation. That is a very good start for this methodology. At the same time, much of your post is still lodged in a neopositivist mindset. As you think about the overall problem statement and the formulation of the question, remember (from Dunn and Neumann) that questions in this methodology usually take the “how…?” or “how possible…?” form that then points to the specific discourses and representations that are puzzling (e.g. “How was it possible that lone mothers came to be represented as immoral and greedy in 1830s Britain?” to use the Carabine example). Both your problem statement and then the question that you spell out later in the post are nepoositivst explanatory questions, not questions focused on how certain constructions of meaning became possible, shared, and/or contested. Make sure to work on reframing the question and the problem statement so it aligns with the focus of this methodology (studying how shared meanings are constructed, reproduced, and challenged) and then think about what that means for how you read sources in this methodology as well!

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