Qualitative Research, 10(6) pp 749-758
The following review symposium, on Martyn Hammersley’s (2008) book may seem rather late. We decided in the Spring of 2010 that Qualitative Research had made a mistake in 2008, when we decided not to commission a review of the volume. In retrospect we realize now that should have devoted space to the book when it was published because it has proved since its initial appearance to be highly controversial. Denzin (2009) has published a play in which the arguments about the state of qualitative research advanced by Hammersley (2008) are attacked by a large cast of qualitative researchers, living and dead, including Freud, Foucault, and Barthes. To our surprise, because we had not been asked for our informed consent, nor shown the play before or after publication, we appeared as silent members of the chorus of social scientists, apparently complicit in Denzin’s attack on Hammersley. This was strange, because Hammersley and Atkinson (1983, 1995, 2007) is such a standard text that Paul and Martyn are usually assumed to be soul mates, or at least to have a good deal of intellectual overlap. Sara’s work has been more critical of Martyn’s (e.g. Delamont, 2001, 2003) but her position is much closer to his than to Denzin’s. A recent paper by Patricia and Peter Adler (2008) is also criticized in the play, and so we also found ourselves de facto co-opted into an ‘oppositional stance’ to what is, a descriptive mapping of current American sociological ethnography. (The Adlers do not address ethnography outwith American sociology at all.) Responses to the play by Hammersley (2010) and ourselves (Atkinson and Delamont, 2010) mean that the original book is currently controversial. Rather than prolong the, essentially circular, discus-sions among scholars of the generations born between 1930 and 1960, we decided to ask three much younger scholars, who will be doing qualitative research long after Denzin, Hammersley or ourselves, to review the book. Rob Smith is a sociologist, Sam Hillyard and Laura da Costa are educational researchers and Anita Naoka Pilgrim is an anthropologist. From this symposium, readers of Qualitative Research can see what the next generation think about Hammersley’s arguments.