"Just because I’m from Africa, they think I’ll want to do narrative": problematising narrative inquiry

S Trahar, D. Stephens

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

3 Citations (Scopus)


Narrative inquiry is undoubtedly a seductive methodological approach for many people, in particular because storytelling is a universal practice; the ways that stories are told and listened to—and those considered to be legitimate—differ, however, from place to place. All narratives are rooted in context and this rootedness has to be taken account of so that stories are interpreted according to the local knowledge of that context. We are troubled that many of our doctoral researchers who have rarely encountered qualitative research previously, let alone narrative, are using it in their research even though it is either totally unknown in their own context or, if it is known, is criticised for not being ‘real research’. This raises ethical questions for us. By encouraging researchers to use narrative is this another form of colonialism? Should we rather be paying due care and attention to methodological approaches that might be more suitable, so called ‘critical and indigenous methodologies’ rather than supporting narrative inquiry? Or, even worse, might we be accused (falsely) of assuming that because a researcher is from an ‘oral culture’ then narrative is congruent with that culture and thus the researcher ideally suited to use it? This chapter discusses these concerns, drawing on our experiences as researchers and doctoral supervisors. In the first part, we will focus upon three inter-connected areas that trouble us. First the relationship of the ‘grand western narrative’ of research to our work as international researchers and educators, second the relationship of narrative to research environments, settings or contexts, and third the issue of the ‘translation’ of research practices, particularly analytic models (intellectual, ideological and practical) from one setting to another. In the second part of the chapter we will examine issues around the promotion of narrative methods when working with graduate students from the South.
Translated title of the contribution“Just because I’m from Africa, they think I’ll want to do narrative”: problematising narrative inquiry
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExplorations in Narrative Research
EditorsIvor Goodson, Avril Loveless, David Stephens
Place of PublicationRotterdam
Pages59 - 69
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-6091-988-6
ISBN (Print)978-94-6091-986-2, 978-94-6091-987-9
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


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