The method of 'con/text analysis' for interviews and other biographic dataMethodology courses and philosophy of sciences

Course information

ECTS: 2.5 
Number of sessions: 4
Hours per session: 3
Entry level: Advanced
Course fee:

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • €440,- for non-members
  • consult our enrolment policy for more information

Enrolment-related questions:
Course-related questions:

Telephone: +31 (0)10 4082607 (Graduate School).

Session 1
March 15 (Thursday) 2018
Theil building (directions) room CT-2

Session 2
March 22 (Thursday) 2018
Sanders building (directions) room 1-15

Session 3
March 29 (Thursday) 2018
Sanders building (directions) room 1-15

Session 4
April 5 (Thursday) 2018
Theil building (directions) room CT-2


Do you have interviews or other biographic data and want to know how to analyse them in-depth? Con/text analysis helps you to understand how the narrator in your data perceives the world and other people in relation to his/her own identity and which aspects influence this perception.

The method is based on different approaches for qualitative data analysis (including discourse analysis) and it is used in various disciplines, including history, anthropology, and cultural, minority and subaltern studies.

Aims and working method

There are four sessions with mini-lectures and practical training. In every meeting the focus is on grasping theoretical concepts and turning these into tools you can use to analyse your data. 

Literature on the concepts of identity, discourse, focalisation and argumentation as well as on self-reflexivity are discussed in class as a basis for this analysis. The lecturer explains the use of these concepts on the basis of concrete examples.

How to prepare

During the four meetings, one of your sources will be analysed in-depth. Before starting the course, all participants will have send in the interview, oral source or other ego-document that they will analyse in class in order for the lecturer to assess its suitability for the analysis.

Participants will also read some literature on the concepts used in the analysis. The participants will be informed about the literature well in advance by email. 

Session descriptions

Session 1:
Introduction to con/text analysis

  • Introduction of the theoretical background to the method of con/text analysis and of the main concepts used during the course
  • Introduction by participants of their research and the role of interviews in their analysis
  • Lecture about the use of ‘reading against the grain’ based on samples from interviews and other texts from the media as well as on academic research
  • A first step in the analysis of the interviews of the participants with a focus on ‘stereotypes’ and ‘stereotypical images’ in the context of their research area

Session 2:
Concepts of discourse, subject-positions, contexts and identities

  • Analysis of the interviews based on these concepts in sub-groups
  • A discussion on the problems encountered during the analysis

Session 3:
Concepts of focalisation, argumentation and silences

  • Analysis of the interviews based on these concepts in sub-groups
  • A discussion on the problems encountered during the analysis

Session 4:
Notions of self-reflexivity, ‘othering’ and alternative subject-positions

  • Analysis of the same or another interview by participants in sub-groups
  • Connecting the outcome of the analysis to the research question
  • Relating the analysis to other research methods
  • Wrapping up: evaluating the usefulness of the method of con/text analysis for analyzing your research material.

About the instructor

Karin Willemse is assistant professor at the Department of History of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). She holds a PhD in anthropology from Leiden University (2001) based on her dissertation entitled One Foot in Heaven: Narratives on Gender and Islam in Darfur, West-Sudan (Brill, 2007). 

She conducted many research projects in which she worked with scholars from South Africa, Senegal, and Sudan, focussing on issues of gender, religion, violence, urban youth and migration. Karin developed a method of con/text analysis, which entails reading all kinds of texts (oral, written, visuals) ‘against the grain’.