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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Public Integrity

For a Special Issue on
Qualitative Methods as Liberatory Tools: Applications and Explorations in Administrative and Research Ethics

Abstract deadline
28 February 2022

Manuscript deadline
31 August 2022

Cover image - Public Integrity

Special Issue Editor(s)

Staci Zavattaro, University of Central Florida
[email protected]

Sean McCandless, University of Illinois Springfield
[email protected]

Ashley Nickels, Kent State University
[email protected]

Esteban Santis, Florida Policy Institute
[email protected]

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Qualitative Methods as Liberatory Tools: Applications and Explorations in Administrative and Research Ethics

The academic field of public administration remains mired in quests for legitimacy, often confused by ontological, epistemological, and methodological suppositions rooted in different ways of knowing (Haverland & Yanow, 2012). Many of these debates remain at the “philosophy of science level” (Brower, Abolafia & Carr, 2000, p. 364), leaving a gap in our knowledge about not just “doing methods” well but also how methodology and methods link to broader theoretical and practical discussions in the field (Haverland & Yanow, 2012). Contemporarily, numerous scholars are calling for a return to the field’s heart and soul – the citizen-state encounter, the power of tacit knowledge, and the ability of stories and narratives to shape knowledge (Guy, 2019; Hummel, 1991; Nielsen, Nielsen & Bisgaard, 2021; Zinner, 2011). Ford (2021, p. 3), for instance, argues that “PA serves humanity, as opposed to serving humans,” as humanity is a philosophical stance focused on improving the human condition.

Yet a focus on the human dimensions of public administration requires centering the uniqueness of people’s experiences (Newman et al., 2009). Interactions with any public service entity—whether the state, or nonprofits, or enterprises working as public contractors, or through intersectoral relationships—are woven with differing conceptions and applications of ethics, accountability, equity, justice, legality and constitutionality, legitimacy, responsiveness, transparency, and more, particularly concerning:

• Power: Who exercises powers and how they exercise power affect what “gets done” in public administration as well as who is positively and negative affected by policy and administration (Collins, 2002)

• Intersectionality: Multiple identities and statuses combine, and “the state” has historically privileged some specific intersections of identities while historically marginalizing others (Blessett, 2018; Crenshaw, 1989; 1991)

• Beliefs and values: Public policies and administrative decisions are manifestations of beliefs and values, especially whose beliefs and values “matter” (Stone, 2011)

• Positionality and voice: Public policy and administration are also dependent on who is involved in decision-making, who is in a position to act, whose voices are acted upon and whose voices are silenced, and how different groups are involved in policy and administrative decisions (Gooden, 2014; Johnson & Svara, 2015)

• Context and Meaning: Data do not exist in isolation but require human beings to provide the meaning of those data and decide how, if at all, to act on data (Van de Ven, 2007)

Thus, the methods we use must be up to the task of studying and helping sort through these complex dimensions, especially through providing in-depth, detail-rich description and explanation of not only what phenomena are but also how and why they work the way that they do. Qualitative methods are essential for these goals.

For some, there is a misunderstanding of the breadth, depth, and application of qualitative methods. Just as quantitative methods have a plethora of options, like structural equation modeling or difference-in-difference analysis, so too do qualitative methods. Some applications include, but are not limited to, photovoice, interviews, historical analysis, content analysis, netnography, ethnography, autoethnography, focus groups, narrative research, phenomenological research, grounded theory, surveys, and more. The field’s narrative turn allowed an appreciation of methods that dig deeply into “social events and understanding the intentions and meanings of social actors, rather than just explaining and predicting their behavior” (Dodge, Ospina & Foldy, 2005, p. 286).

Instead of wading deeply into the ongoing quest for methodological legitimacy, this special issue wants to bring about a renewed focus on qualitative methods in public administration. Specifically, we seek to unpack and understand how qualitative methods can lead to a liberatory perspective of public administration, policy, and management. Broadly, from a liberatory perspective, the public administrator or public manager understands that science is power and that all research findings have political implications (Denzin & Lincoln, 2018). At the same time, a liberatory perspective examines past, present, and future oppression to bring about healing, reconciliation, restoration, and justice between the researcher and researched (Denzin, 2010; Stanfield, 2006).

Some questions/topics to pursue could include but are not limited to:

• What are the ethical implications of increasing research on the citizen-state encounter?
• What are some concerns with a narrow view of qualitative methods? How can we as instructors better train students in a variety of qualitative methods?
• What are the ontological and epistemological questions that arise when seeing public administration scholarship and practice as serving humanity? What kinds of knowledge are appreciated in these new ways of understanding?
• How does pitting qualitative and quantitative methods against each other stunt the field’s continued quest for legitimacy?
• How can qualitative methods help liberate communities? What are the power dynamics involved, and how are those addressed via research and reporting?
• How can we decolonize qualitative methods? And how can qualitative approaches decolonize academia? Practice?
• What are some problems with White-centered methods, tools, and education?
• How can a liberatory perspective change the field’s dominant narratives? What are the impacts of these changes on education and practice?
• Autoethographic reflections of doing qualitative research
• Pedagogy scholarship exploring the role of qualitative inquiry in public administration education
• Applications of any of the methods listed above (or not included) to investigate ethical questions

Submission Instructions

Proposals for papers should be submitted via Google Form (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeBfkPML6lqMxso2lqJxoL1MbD-w8ownqozk7jDiSQKPZ_rwA/viewform?usp=sf_link) by February 28, 2022. The key deadlines are as follows:
1. Proposals (approximately 500 words) due via Google form: February 28, 2022
2. Proposal disposition indicated by: March 15, 2022
3. First drafts due in the Public Integrity editorial management system: August 31, 2022
4. Double-blind peer-review process: Fall 2022
5. Publication of special issue(s): Mid- to late-2023

Invitation to submit a full paper does not guarantee publication. All papers will be subject to Public Integrity’s standard double-blind peer review process. Please address any questions to the special issue editors: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected].

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article