Murder and Emancipation: Agatha Christie and Critical Qualitative Methods

Author: Tim Appignani, University of Illinois at Chicago, United States of America
Published: September 30, 2016

Citation: Appignani, T. (2016). Murder and Emancipation: Agatha Christie and Critical Qualitative Methods. IAFOR Journal of Cultural Studies, 1(2).


Prominent cultural studies scholars, beginning as early as the Frankfurt School and continuing through to today, have routinely identified the mystery novel as a worthy cultural product because it serves to valorize scientism by illustrating the virtue of scientific methods of crime solving. However, this research has neglected to fully consider how other, less empirical, forms of inquiry have also been featured in the mystery genre, particularly in the work of the most widely read mystery author of all time, Agatha Christie. My research highlights Christie’s tendency to focus on the utility of qualitative methods that result in emancipatory action for marginalized characters. For Miss Marple, Christie’s popular sleuth, this emancipation results from her use of what scholars call a critical qualitative method that enjoins stakeholders in an empowering process of collective inquiry. By establishing that Christie’s work evidences progressive social scientific research methods, this article engages with the work of previous scholars who have overlooked the legacy of her novels as purveyors of scientism to the public, and as means of repudiating hegemonic discourses of institutional authority.


cultural studies, action research, Agatha Christie, crime fiction, scientism, methods