Opening the conference – Professor Barry Gibson

Much has been made of the various influences on the development of grounded theory over the last 35 years of debate about the method. These influences have been variously used to explain the underlying conditions and dynamics of the problematic split in grounded theory between Glaser and Strauss. On the one hand the Columbian School is used to explain the so called ‘positivism’ of classic grounded theory and on the other the influence of George Herbert Mead and symbolic interactionism is used to explain the key principles underpinning the so called ‘Straussian’ school of grounded theory. This keynote will explore the dual processes of ‘time-tripping’ and ‘retro-casting’ in relation to the history of grounded theory in order to see what we can learn from time travelling and the ‘grounded theory scape’. ‘Time-tripping’ involves going back to the original grounded theory texts (Discovery and Theoretical Sensitivity), constructing a sense of similarities and differences in the meaning of the original texts for the co-authors and generating productive tensions through which to produce new programmes for the method as it moves forward.  ‘Retro-casting’ involves going back to the original texts in an attempt to refit grounded theory to an imagined history. Seeking out previous influences and productively developing these to demonstrate their implications for better doing the method. ‘Time-tripping’ and ‘retro-casting’ are fundamental basic social processes that enable the method to ‘adopt’ and ‘adapt’ to changes in the wider programme of social scientific methods. They generate the movement of grounded theory into a newly constructed and indeed highly productive imaginary. This keynote will examine pivotal developments in the light of the history of grounded theory method to demonstrate how ‘time-tripping’ and ‘retro-casting’ have enabled all versions of grounded theory to develop in productive tension with each other.