Qualitative dementia research emphasises the importance of recognising the voice of the person with dementia. However, research imbued with a politics of selfhood, whereby individuals are called upon to give coherence to experience and emotion, jars with representations of dementia as a gradual decline in capacity. Moreover, it reinforces an assumption that there is an essential experience that can be accessed through different methods. Drawing on Atkinson and Silverman, we view the interview not as confessional but rather as an outcome of social interaction. This paper draws on qualitative interviews from the Improving the Experince of Dementia and Enhancing Active Life (IDEAL) study, to focus specifically on the forms of accounting and storytelling of people living with dementia and how these are produced through the course of the interview encounter. Extracts from our interviews highlight key aspects of this interactional process: (a) social conventions and temporality, (b) self presentation and identity work, (c) accounts and wider cultural meanings. To conclude, we suggest that qualitative research with people with dementia requires a reframing of both the interview encounter and interpretive practices.
Published: December 2019