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NCRM Research Methods Festival Oxford 2012 Narrative analysis Corinne Squire Centre for Narrative Research, UEL and NOVELLA /

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Presentation on theme: "NCRM Research Methods Festival Oxford 2012 Narrative analysis Corinne Squire Centre for Narrative Research, UEL and NOVELLA /"— Presentation transcript:

1 NCRM Research Methods Festival Oxford 2012 Narrative analysis Corinne Squire Centre for Narrative Research, UEL and NOVELLA /

2 Narrative analysis Narrative research Narrative analysis: structural, thematic, contextual Limitations of narrative research

3 Why is narrative research so popular? Apparent universality Stories - Investing In Our Future - The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Interdisciplinarity Bridges theory and practice: academic, yet accessible DIPEx Home: Patient Experiences of health and illness, cancer, heart disease, screening Museum of London - Life stories & oral history The British Library Sound Archive: library materials Said to mediate between modernism and postmodernism Offers different levels of analysis, from microstructure, through content, to large-scale context Thought to offer connections with cognitive psychology, neuroscience Thought to enable relations between politics and research Community Stories | Treatment Action Campaign Pleasurable

4 Problems of narrative research Universalised expectations about narrative Reification of the narrative object Reduction of lives to narratives Diversity and incompatibility of approaches Lack of generalisability of findings Problems of narrative analysis Analysis of narratives or narrative analysis? Eliciting, finding or constructing narratives? Deciding between forms of analysis

5 Narrative analysis Narrative: sets of symbols, in diverse media, that progress, building social cultural historical meaning, and that are particular. Weak definition Distinguishable from theory, description. Not equally understandable to all. Does not involve temporality, causality Not about purely personal meaning Can involve symbol sequences that are: oral, written, linguistic, paralinguistic, visual, embodied, activity, objects, built environment.

6 Narrative analysis Analysing narratives via syntax, semantics and pragmatics - or structure, content and context (Mishler, 1986). These categories overlap. Structure: narratives as event narratives, poetic stories, folk stories, other genres; includes paralinguistic features; often draws on psycho- or sociolinguistics. Studying the structure of naturally-occurring personal event narratives (Labov) defined by narrative clauses; studying the functional structure of narratives (Propp); studying narrative elements as ‘idea units’ (Gee); studying particular key narrative tropes (Polletta) Content: narratives as expressing, enacting or enabling changes in life meaning, sense, identity, sociocultural formation, unconscious significance (Bruner, Ricoeur, Plummer, Polletta, Andrews, Hollway and Jefferson, Wengraf) Context: in interpersonal narrative co-construction (Phoenix, Georgakopolou) and more broadly, in relation to larger discourses, technologies, systems, assemblages, capitals, capabilities – and ‘smaller’ linguistic, cognitive and emotional formations (Georgakopoulou, Andrews et al., Tamboukou, Loots, Herman, Butler)

7 Norris’s story (Labov, 1972) a When I was in fourth grade - no, it was in third grade- bThis boy he stole my glove. cHe took my glove dand said that his father found it downtown on the ground (And you fight him?) eI told him that it was impossible for him to find it downtown ‘cause all those people were walking by and just his father was the one that found it? fSo he got all (mad). gThen I fought him. h I knocked him all out in the street. iSo he say he give. jAnd I kept on hitting him. kThen he started crying land ran home to his father. mAnd the father told him nthat he ain’t find no glove

8 Problems with the structural approach Individual, thematic and cultural variations (Patterson) in the material that put the universality of (eg) event narratives in question Cognitive focus at the expense of language Significance of the analysis?

9 Can this story be given a Labovian analysis? (from Squire, 2007) Michael: ok I went to (clinic 1) but, I was, I, I, I was looking around for the guy who can took me the test, they, they showed me ‘no this guy can do’, the guy started to ask me everything, ‘why are you coming here for the HIV test?’ I told him ‘no the point is that my, I mean, I’m not I’m not well with my health and I’m suffering too much from the STDs and then thirdly I don’t know what’s happening with my, with myself, with my body. So I want to know clear, I want to be clear what’s really, what’s really happening’ /mhm/ ok the guys, ask me that ‘ok you want the HIV test, ok let me ask you one thing if you, you as you come here to do the HIV test, ok you told me that, these things that made you to come here what if, what if your blood can find H, I mean do you think about your blood, will your blood be negative or positive?’ I, I told, I told him straight that ‘no my blood will be positive no doubt’, ok he told me, he told me, he ask me that ‘no if your blood will be positive how would you behave? Would you be ok or what?’ I told him no I would be ok, I would accept myself you know /mhm/ ‘Would you accept yourself?’ ‘No I would accept myself’. Ok things were fine. We started to do, to take my blood again. Then it was fine. I went back I told my girlfriend ‘no I done the HIV test’ but the results were still not, were still not ca, came back /mhm/ you know. I’m still waiting for my results. Ok that was fine. The results came back positive ok, the guy told me ‘no what you, say what you say to me, what you told me it’s really like that’. Ok I told him ‘no I want to see it physically don’t tell me like that you know /mhm/ show me the paper, the papers you know, let me see it, you should see that the man is HIV positive’ ok it was fine ‘How do you feel now’, now I started to become shock now, I looked up the sky like that, I looked up the sky, the guy asked me ‘how do you feel’ ‘no, I mean I’m just ok’ you know, but there’s that question in my mind, ‘hey this is really, this is really true that you are HIV positive’ that is in my mind. Ok the guy told me ‘no it is like this you know. What you should know is this, this is not end of the life, is not a death sentence being HIV positive, you can live longer than up to twenty years, but is just that if you can just behave yourself as you are, be yourself in all those things and then accept yourself then you can see what is it’, and, he, he advise me the, the balance diet and all those things just like that.

10 Problems with the semantic approach Content focus at the expense of narrative sequence Content focus at the expense of language Assumptions about the relation between narrative, experience and selfhood Therapeutic assumptions about ‘good’ narratives (temporal sequencing; considering and resolving conflict; expressing and reflecting on emotions; reaching an ending) Elision with politics through emphasis on ‘giving voice’

11 Problems of the first contextual approach Assumptions about canonic interaction patterns based on little relevant contemporary sociolinguistic data Assumption of the containment of large narrative patterns within small ones

12 Problems of the second contextual approach Need for supporting evidence Lack of generalisability of the genres Neglect of smaller-scale phenomena, such as individual stories Aspects of personal and social experience that cannot be narrated in all stories (Frosh, Craib)

13 Narrative analysis Yolanda: on being HIV positive in the UK at a time of social service cuts, while being an asylum seeker. Yolanda herself has ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status. She says she is now ‘empowered.’ She is in her 50s, originally from Zimbabwe, takes ART, and has a number of serious health problems Yeah it is very hard, because you don’t know what to say to someone about their problems, what they are going through. Because some have got relatives who are dying, children who are dying, they can’t go home, they are still grieving here. They are dealing with people’s issues, it is difficult, it is difficult. I can put myself in that position. I’ve got a friend who is dealing with that same issue. She went through, she is going through a lot, she is now depressed, yeah. Sometimes I will go to their house, sleep over, two days or three days, yeah. I will sleep over then I will invite her, I have told her ‘you are welcome to my house, come anytime, if I am not there then my children are there, sometimes I got my grandchildren, ‘feel free, don’t be on your own, yeah, come, I will cook for you – if you want to cook anything, (or) sleep on my bed’ (laughs) yeah, because I know what she is going through, unfortunately, it’s difficult. How is this story structured? What is its main thematic progression/s? What is its context – to whom is being told, how and why? What more would you need to know, to answer these questions?

14 Narrative analysis Structure: habitual event narrative (Patterson, 2008); parable Content: social support issues; mental health issues; empowerment (Riessman, 2008) Context: told to a friend; a social researcher; a wider community and policy audience; performance of empowered identity (Georgakopolou, 2007; Phoenix, 2008; Riessman, 2008) Interactions: content and structure; content and context; structure and context Some aspects of this story that seem important, are difficult to address within this framework. How does the story do what is such a prominent concern for it: offering help to people living with HIV who are in very difficult circumstances? Are there any phrases within the story or its progression that are particularly important?

15 Narratives’ social style There are some aspects of structure that do not standardly get considered within analyses of structure – though of course, again, they interact with aspects of content and context – that seem to be important in Yolanda’s story and many others. I shall call these social style Social style is a heuristic category including social genres, and narrative ‘figures of speech.’ Social genres (patterns of plot, character and theme) are more general than individual narrative patterns, are not tied to particular datasets, and are not tied to particular media Narrative ‘figures of speech’ are tropes that play a key role in narratives’ progressions. Some aspects of social style seem to be important in Yolanda’s story – how, though, might they have effects?

16 Narrative and its effects: social change Narratives can have a range of effects –as well as none – within the field of representation, as well as personally and socially. Here we are going to focus on a particular subset of these effects which concern many researchers: relations between narratives and social change. Stories are good at : ‘patching social life together....cementing people‘s commitment to common projects, helping people make sense of what is going on, channelling collective decisions and judgements, spurring people to action they would otherwise be reluctant to pursue’ (Tilly, 2002: 26-7). What are the aspects of narratives that seem to contribute to importantly to narratives' ability to catalyse social change? How do narratives like Yolanda’s do the things Tilly describes?

17 Narrative and its effects: social change How do the social styles of narrative work to generate or support social change? They make narrative associations that call up social connections (revisable linkages) What has connection to do with social change? Iris Marion Young relates responsibility and justice to the processes that connect us with others: ‘some structural social processes connect people across the world without regard to political boundaries’ (2006: 101). Young characterises such social connection processes by five factors: Non-blaming; reference to contextual conditions; orientation towards the future rather than the past, and a collective framing of explanations of the past and of present and future action How can narrative styles potentiate such connection processes? What are the social styles that enable narratives to catalyse connection? Similarisation, familiarisation, physicalisation, temporalisation, psychologism

18 Troubles with stories and social change Narratives' power can function, like other kinds of power, in different directions, “ for ” as well as “ against ” social division (Foucault 1980), conservatively or regressively. Narratives do not always relate strongly to the material world. Frequently, narratives operate outside social functionality; it may not be possible to say what they 'mean', let alone what they 'do' or whether they produce change. Such difficulties often appear empirically, in the incoherent, incomplete, sometimes ineffectual or regressive character of narratives analysed by social researchers (Hyd é n and Brockmeier 2008; Hyv ä rinen et al. 2010; Riessman 2008). However, complexities in narratives' relationship to social change do not obviate the possibility that the relationship is an important one.


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