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Researching Family Life and Consumption: Epistemological Challenges and Advances

Special issue call for papers from Qualitative Market Research

Guest editors:

Benedetta Cappellini, Royal Holloway, University of London,
Susanna Molander, Visiting Scholar, The Graduate Center, CUNY,
Vicki Harman, University of Surrey,

The growing interest in studying family and consumption practices in qualitative consumer research is shown by the popularity of such topics in sociological, anthropological and marketing journals, conferences and seminars, as well as by the topicality of books on family life. Despite such a popularity, there has been relatively little reflection on the epistemological challenges and advancements of this interdisciplinary field of study. In the specific case of interpretivist consumer research, there is a current trend of adopting taken-for-granted methodological assumptions, often generating limited and formulaic discussions on methods. Still, methodology and methods are very alive as shown by the growing use of innovative and creative methods and reflections on their applications (see for example, Belk et al. 2017; Burgess et al. 2017; Crang 2002; Edirisingha et al. 2017; Hein and O’Donohoe 2011; Kozinets et al. 2018; Oakely 2016; Patterson 2005; Pich, and Dean 2015; Rohani et al. 2014; Sherry and Schouten 2002; Veg-Sala 2014). However in-depth discussions of the politics of methodology and methods and their empirical applications for studying family life and consumption are usually confined to methodological journals or books.

Given the growing number of works produced around themes such as children’s consumption, parenting, intergenerational relationships, vulnerability and power in the household, acculturation, online/offline narratives of family life and so on, we think that a conversation of how we study such topics is crucial and timely. As Doucet (2011, 89) points out, we need to recognise that ‘particular methods produce particular social realities’ and as such our methodology and methods might be implicated in reproducing certain moral discourses of family life. Since studying family life is in itself a practice of displaying family, reflecting on this practise requires that ‘sustained attention is paid to the methods we use in family research’ (Doucet 2011, 89). 
We believe that there is a need for an in-depth interdisciplinary discussion on the challenges, cul-de-sacs, failures, but also epiphanies, advancements and unexpected revelations of our academic practices of studying family life. The special issue aims at providing a space for analysis of the current state of the art of doing qualitative research in family life, discussing traditional approaches and new trends, as well as problems and innovations. We aim to move the existing dispersed methodological discussion forward, providing reflections on the current politics of methodology and identifying new directions for studying family life and consumption. We welcome provocative contributions around the often taken for granted choices regarding how to collect qualitative data in research on families and how to analyse and interpret them. We encourage reflections on the various stages of the research design: from the formulation of the question to accessing the sample and conducting the fieldwork, the interpretation of the data, the use of theory and the writing up process. As we seek to advance the current discussion regarding the epistemological and axiological aspects of interpretive works, we want to stimulate a debate around challenges and failures, themes that are usually absent in journal articles. Given our aims, we welcome researchers at various stages of their careers to contribute with reflections on their own experiences of doing qualitative research on/with/for families.

Topics for this special issue include, but not limited, to the following:

•    Epistemological advancements and challenges in studying family life
•    Politics of methodology in researching family life
•    Feminist approaches to researching family life
•    Transformative consumer research and family life  
•    Researchers’ emotions in the epistemological process 
•    Power relationships in the epistemological process
•    Doing research with children and vulnerable participants
•    Empirical challenges and advancements in using innovative methods
•    Entering and exiting the field

Submission Requirements and Information:

Inquiries can be directed to the special issue co-editors: Benedetta Cappellini, Susanna Molander and Vicki Harman

Submissions should follow the manuscript format guidelines for QMR found at:

All manuscripts should be submitted through the QMR online submission system at


Submission of full paper: 31 March 2019


Belk, R.W, M. Caldwell, T. M. Devinney, G. M. Eckhardt, Henry, P., Kozinets R. and Plakoyiannaki, E. (2017), “Envisioning consumers: how videography can contribute to marketing knowledge”, Journal of Marketing Management, DOI: 10.1080/0267257X.2017.1377754
Burgess, G., Kelemen, M., Moffat, S. and Parsons, E. (2017)"Using performative knowledge production to explore marketplace exclusion", Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Vol. 20 No4, pp. 486-51. 
Crang, M. (2002), “Qualitative methods: the new orthodoxy?”, Process in Human Geography, Vol. 26, No. 5, pp. 647-655.
Doucet, A. (2011), "’It’s just not good for a man to be interested in other people’s children’: fathers, public displays of care and ‘relevant others", in Dermott, E., and Seymour, J.  (Eds.), Displaying Families: A New Concept for the Sociology of Family Life. Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 81-101.
Edirisingha, P.A, Abarashi, J., Ferguson, S. and Aitken, r. (2017), "From “participant” to “friend”: the role of Facebook engagement in ethnographic research", Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Vol. 20, No. 4, pp. 416-434.
Hein, W. and O’Donohoe, S. (2011), "Mobile Phones as an Extension of the Participant Observers' Self", Qualitative Market Research Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 258-273.
Kozinets, R.V., Scaraboto D. and Parmentier M.A. (2018), “Evolving netnography: how brand auto-netnography, a netnographic sensibility, and more-than-human netnography can transform your research”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 34, No.3-4, pp. 231-242.
Oakley, A. (2016), “Interviewing women again: power, time and the gift”, Sociology, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp.195-213.
Patterson, A. (2005) "Processes, relationships, settings, products and consumers: the case for qualitative diary research", Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 142-156.
Pich, C. and Dean, D. (2015), "Qualitative projective techniques in political brand image research from the perspective of young adults", Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Vol. 18, No 1, pp. 115-144.
Rohani, L.S., Aung, M. and Rohani, K. (2014), "One step closer to the field: visual methods in marketing and consumer research", Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 300-318
Sherry Jr, J. F. and Schouten J. W. (2002) "A role for poetry in consumer research” Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 218-234.
Veg-Sala, N. (2014) "The use of longitudinal case studies and semiotics for analysing brand development as process of assimilation or accommodation", Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 373-392.