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Title: Rethinking Alfred Schutz's life-world-spousal sexuality of Hong Kong Chinese couple as a case in point
Authors: Ho, Wing-chung
Degree: M.Phil.
Issue Date: 1999
Abstract: Edmund Husserl was the first person to study the life-world as a theoretical concept in his transcendental phenomenology. It was Alfred Schutz who directed the life-world to the mundane realm. Most importantly, Schutz marked the turn to the sociological studies of the life-world. His successors, Harold Garfinkel and later Harvey Sacks, developed Schutz's life-world theory in an empirical direction. Garfinkel's and Sacks's attempts were quickly recognized and they were generally called social constructionists. Social constructionists generally agree that the only way to study taken-for-grantedness of the life-world is to study the discursive data. However, for Schutz, life-world is an unquestioned but questionable matrix, and is hence non-discursive in nature. Unfortunately, largely owing to the impact of the social constructionists, discursive data seem to have become the sole legitimate source for empirical investigation. Non-discursiveness is not even regarded as a sociological term. This dissertation aims at rethinking Schutz's life-world by re-affirming its non-discursive nature. I believe that not only does the actor live in the life-world, the life-world itself can also be an object of sociological investigation in a way different from that of the social constructionists. Moreover, I deem Schutz's life-world as an ontological theorizing can and should be validated with an empirical case. The empirical case I had chosen was the spousal sexuality of couples married more than ten years. Spousal-sexual world of this kind is a good case in point because it is a relatively simple world involving only two actors. Moreover, according to Schutz's theory, spousal-sexual world entails a we-relation with a high degree of directness. A long period of marriage also ensures that the couples have taken things in their spousal-sexual world for granted. To limit my scope of study, I had chose one aspect of the spousal sexuality, namely extra-marital affairs, for further empirical study. In order to reach my empirical end, some theoretical and methodological preparations were done. Having illustrated Schutz's unsuccessful methodological attempt, I re-conceptualized the structures of Schutz's life-world for sociological investigation. I argued that sociological investigation into the structures of the life-world was possible only by beginning with the actor's structurizing activity, i.e., a continuous selection of theme from his horizon which is taken-for-granted. Moreover, I re-defined the relation between the theme and horizon as an actuality-possibility one. Then I devised a special technique, namely surface interview, to capture the actor's structurizing activity. In surface interview, each subject was allowed to perform his/her undisturbed structurizing activity in narration about an actual but strange story of extra-marital affairs reported by a local psychiatrist. I assumed that the strangeness of the story could render his/her structurizing activity more manifest for data analysis. I argued that what was said (the theme) in the surface interview is picked up from a range of, what I call the unsaid, i.e., horizon as possibilities. Things are qualified as possibilities of an actor because they have been actualized as answers (the said), at least once, by another person responding to the same question. As a result, the horizon of the actor is the range of possibilities that he has not picked up. These possibilities were then listed in a special format, what I call an answer-aire. I proposed that in the non-discursiveness of the life-world (in my case the spousal-sexual world concerning the aspect of extra-marital affairs) could be uncovered by using an important concept borrowed from Hans-Georg Gadamer, a philosopher. This concept is called "tradition." Gadamer said that not only does the actor live in tradition, he is also in dialogue with it. I contended that this dialogical character of tradition could connect the discursive data from the surface interview to the non-discursiveness of the life-world. Subsequently, I argued on the basis of empirical evidence that there are generally three domains in the horizon of the spousal-sexual world which are susceptible to sociological investigation, namely, They are domains of taken-for-grantedness, intersubjectivity, and discrepancy. They together constitute the general structures of the life-world. Thus I managed to advance Schutz's idea a small step forward.
Subjects: Schutz, Alfred, 1899-1959
Adultery -- China -- Hong Kong
Couples -- China -- Hong Kong
Husband and wife -- China -- Hong Kong
Chinese -- China -- Hong Kong
Phenomenological sociology -- China -- Hong Kong
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Pages: 88, [197] leaves : ill. ; 30 cm
Appears in Collections:Thesis

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