‘to think is to experiment’ 2014 – notes by Aura Lounasmaa

Aura Lounasmaa’s notes on To Think is to Experiment 30 April 2014
UEL, Docklands

Dr Lounasmaa is the CNR research administrator

Siyanda Ndlovu Memorial Lecture
Dr Nicola Samson
The road to subjective belonging: the travels travails and realisation of a narrative PhD

The routes travelled and the process of PhD – recall the powerful presence of Siyanda for the CNR and to Nicola personally. Siyanda doing PhD in race and racial identity. Connecting through CNR PhD group. Narrative enriched and possibly burdened by the nature of its flexibility, fluidity and equivocality; has no strict or fixed parameters firmly guiding its application

How to make sense of narrative transcriptions: Maria Tamboukou: for ten years CNR has been trying hard not to define narrative

Little idea of what stories of belonging and not belonging would emerge from interviews with immigrant women: not interested in whether people belong but how people belong; no rigid definition of belonging – experiences of security as heuristic device; hermeneutics – subjectivity; phenomenological unfolding of women’s sense of belonging

“It’s a hard question; it’s so straightforward. It’s hard to answer.” Subjectivity becomes visible through the narration. The more immersed I got in their stories the more difficult I found to be involved in their lives. Consummate meaning making task: transcription; Analysis difficult to separate from the transcription;

Chapter structure devised in the beginning of PhD began to loom over as the PhD data and new questions began to emerge; PhD – mental illness…

Narrative project led by the data – only once the pieces have been put together we can see the picture that emerges

Your data is your PhD; you cannot know what your PhD is about before you have your data.

Kerstin Meissner: About working titles, abstracts and narrowing your research focus – a personal narrative on writing a PhD (on belonging)

First year, no data yet; the process: blurry – how to bring it down to specific focus.

Once you start a PhD you are interested in the zoo, then you pick one animal you are interested in and end up writing about a hair on the elephant’s trunk. Political uncertainties in motion: belonging rather than identity. Kierkegaard: we live forward but we understand backward

Obstacles and achievements within PhD process in understanding how to get through the blurriness. Your work become you and you become your work.

Emanuela Spano: Gendertelling in academia: narratives from male-dominated ‘worlds’

Meta-reflection about narrative approach. Ways in which people create the stories to interpret the world. Narratives as social products in cultural locations, not mirrors of experience but an interpretative lens through which people present themselves to themselves and to each other.

Social world itself storied. Narrative central means to connect themselves and others, past and present. Social context limits the stories that can be told. How can individual narratives be related to the societal ones? Producing a coherent self through interpreting the past in the present by telling. Power relations – public narratives often draw on literary traditions: public narratives powerful in shaping personal narratives; how can we account for power relations, esp. gender.

Chose theoretical perspectives after the original one she chose did not fit with the data.

Catherine Walker: Reflections on transcribing for narrative analysis

Transcription much more challenging than expected. Theory-laden, interpretive and emotional process, powerful act of representation (Oliver et al). Everyday environments, practices and lives. Co-constructed transcripts. Interpretive work done in transcription. Research team; only decisions that are conscious reflexive and proactive are visible. Number of different people worked on transcripts – invisible choices and interpretations. Amending or checking? We all hear differently, hearing things we want to hear. Emotional attachment to participants – who can represent them through transcription?

Ann Stokes: Development of a multi-layered narrative approach analysis in order to make sense of men’s caring experiences

Privileged access to personal stories. Not transparent window; meaning through social interaction at a specific time and space. How do men perceive their own experience? Too much data, too many layers. Narrative analysis is messy; no rules as to how to do it. What, how, why? Interviewer as co-constructor. Balancing insider/outsider. Overwhelmed by the openness of participants. Informal discursive space. Stories often continued after the recording stopped. Didn’t want to depersonalise: created a narrative summary of each story. Multi-layered analysis helped keep the personal in the narratives. Researcher altered through the experience of sharing in the narratives of caring and emotion. Personal photos; interviews in the homes – family photos in the house anyway. Narrative summaries written as the first stage of analysis – plucking out themes, tones, after transcription. Not giving the stories back to the participants: stories and meaning had already changed from the moment of telling.

Sabrina Koepke: ‘Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans’ – when the story of a research project’s becoming is inseparable from the subject you plan to study

Self-location: who am I when working on my project and how does this affect the project? How not to impose my own story? What if the story I hear is not the one I wanted?

Ferney Cruz and Ximena Bonilla:
Experiences of language teachers on rural areas; sociocultural/socioeconomic context.

Difficult to find participants. Lot of studies focused on the language itself; interest in the relationship between teachers and pupils from different sociocultural contexts. How to get the best information? What questions? In the interview realised teachers started to tell stories and interrupting to ask questions fragmented the data. Didn’t allow the stories to emerge – Riessman 2000. Ontological narratives v. public narratives interconnected. Participants attach closer to either public or personal. Personal narratives framed within the metanarrative of globalisation.

Narratives offer a powerful framework to understand social disjuncture and converges between the rationales behind educational policies and teaching practices.

Irene Gantxegi: Emotional education through narratives about the Basque conflict: a critical understanding of political violence

Reading about experiences of victims of conflict can create emotional and moral response.Victims from all perspectives. How narratives encourage moral sentiments and how these sentiments interrelate with political opinions. Narrative analysis: narratives of fiction closely related to ethics. Novels may play a role in fostering moral development. How do participants talk about the victims and violence. Emotions change in the discussions.

Sophie Ward: The narrative of thought experiments: how philosophy examines the natire of consciousness through story

Examination of thought experiments. Practice based component: novel. Thought experiment: “what if”? Thinking about an experiment =/ thought experiment. Novel and philosophy of the mind came about same time. Dennett: we try to make all of our material cohere into a single story. And that story is our autobiography. Best way to understand consciousness is the novel. The self the best thing we have even though it may not even exist.

Tessa Hughes: Stories of professional care: narrative analysis of accounts from people with dementia

Hearing from people with dementia. Consent/capacity causing people to be ignored in research despite their wish to be heard, little effort to come up with solutions. What are the stories of professional care from the patients’ point of view. Alzheimer society for advice on how to do it: unstructured conversations, stories. People with dementia talk in storied form. \de-emphasise structural aspects of story-telling, instead focus on accounts of values. People deny/entitle themselves to speak; other people in the group positioning. Structural coherence, emplotment may be less appropriate (although not always) – broadening the definition of narrative; fragments, co-construction, feedback to see whether resonates. Informal way of speaking, repositioning the researcher – dementia patient to two people speaking allowed greater agency of self-representation. Using literature and stories cognitively with people with dementia. Piecing the stories back together allows to separate cognitive difficulties from meandering of the narratives.

Eva Mikuska and Andre Kurowski: Mature students’ stories: a study investigating the complexity of interpretation

Gendered analysis: a man and a woman analysing the same data. Participants’ provided written accounts – snowballing. Andre more empathetic with students than Eva: emotions, doubt, self-confidence. Eva policy discourses. Class and cultural capital became more important than gender in analysis.


Published by corinnesquire

Corinne Squire is Professor of Social Sciences and Co-Director, Centre for Narrative Research, at University of East London

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