We suggest that interviewers become dangerous by the simple act of listening. In dangerous listening, there is a looking-glass effect through which the listener deflects the new or repressing self and reveals the old. The heart of danger is the interviewee's self reflected back from the interviewer's relationship to the past self. The data are drawn from two sets of intensive interviews, one with female mental patients-to-expatients in the 1950s in California (see Warren, 1987), and one with ex-Vietnam veterans on a trauma ward at a Veterans' administration hospital (see Karner, 1994). In listening, the narrator and the interviewer become participants in witnessing a violation of a social or personal norm. After such an accounting, the listener is seen as the symbolic repository for the narrator's troubled past, constituting a threat of judgment or exposure. These dangers of listening are not only those special biomedical and social dangers involved in the rhetoric of human subjects regulations, they are dangers of an everyday life world in which selves change, and change again.
Karner, Tracy X. and Warren, Carol A. B.
"The Dangerous Listener: Unforseen Perils in Intensive Interviewing,"
Clinical Sociology Review: Vol. 13
, Article 9.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/csr/vol13/iss1/9