Exploring culture through in-depth interviews: is it useful to ask people about what they think, mean, and do?


  • Ricardo Rivas University of Arizona
  • Michael Gibson-Light University of Arizona


In 2010, American sociologist John Levi Martin asserted that in-depth interviews are inadequate for the study of culture. This sparked a debate in the discipline over the legitimacy of interview methods for researchers of culture and others. Here, we contextualize and contribute to this debate. We review the ideas of Martin and argue that in-depth interviews are in fact valid, well-supported in the field, and useful for investigating cultural phenomena. We build this counter-argument on three angles: epistemological, theoretical and methodological. Given this defense, we also explore how social scientists are implementing innovative ways to complement in-depth interview approaches, such as through social network analysis.

Palabras clave:

qualitative methods, in-depth interviews, epistemology, sociology of culture, John Levi Martin