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Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 22–55 | Cite as

The stranger as seer or voyeur: A dilemma of the peep-show theory of knowledge

  • Sue Curry Jansen
Article

Abstract

The belief that ‘the stranger’ (outsider, disinterested third party) sees things more clearly, i.e. is more “objective,” is seen to be a corner-stone of folk wisdom; underlying Western judicial thought and concepts of objectivity in the social sciences. The author raises the dilemma that both positivistic and humanistic sociologists accept this belief—suggesting 1) that it is a residue of positivism and a quest for certain knowledge, or 2) the possibility that ‘the stranger’ does gain deeper insight into group life than members. The paper examines the concept of the stranger, considering the aura of charisma that seems to have been attached to it in ordinary discourse as well as within the sociological dialogue. Two types of strangers are described: outsiders and enemies within. Finally, an attempt is made to examine the testimony of prominant strangers as they describe their marginal status and speculate on the ways that status has made them unusually perceptive observers of social phenomena.

Keywords

Social Science Social Psychology Social Issue Deep Insight Marginal Status 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Syracuse University 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sue Curry Jansen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyState University of New York at BuffaloUSA

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