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10 - Narrative Next: Ways Forward for Narrative Research

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2024

Ashley Barnwell
Affiliation:
University of Melbourne
Signe Ravn
Affiliation:
University of Melbourne
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Summary

In narrative research, various disciplines use the same terms to describe different things, and different terms to describe the same things. Yet, a common commitment to particular critical questions cuts across boundaries. As with this collection – which draws scholars from sociology, oral history, criminology, development studies, cultural studies, creative writing, social work and social policy – issues of story ownership, ethics, representation, authenticity and authority sit at the core of such discussions. As we noted in our introductory chapter, this book was inspired by years of such conversations within the Narrative Network, as we heard members grappling with shared questions about what our analysis of narrative in new times demands. The chapters in this book showcase some of narrative’s diverse forms and scales – the authors analyse oral histories and interview data, lyrics and visual displays, and the contested stories that unfurl in policy debates, families, classrooms and community spaces. While the authors have employed different methodologies and frameworks, they come together to ask crucial questions about the politics of storytelling in a social world.

At the outset of this book, we located the collection within critical concerns about the instrumentalisation of narrative and the enlisting of lived experience into polemic political debates and dubious corporate strategy (Patterson, 2002; Salmon, 2010; Mӓkelӓ et al, 2021; Brooks, 2022). In this context, the volume extends vital conversations about how narrative can be approached in critical and ethical ways from a range of disciplinary perspectives. The book is structured into three themes which emerged as important topics for narrative research now – ‘Institutional Authority and Counter-stories’; ‘Tellable and Untellable Stories’; and ‘The Ethics of Representation’. In this concluding chapter, we summarise the contributions to draw out their connections and foreground the insights that are collectively built across the volume. We then reflect on how this collection opens critical paths forward for narrative research.

Institutional authority and counter-stories

The three chapters in the first section of the book all explored how narratives are part of driving social change. First, Dave McDonald showed how experiences of institutional abuse were commemorated via the colourful ribbons that became known as Loud Fence, and how these ribbons – and the stories they evoked – came to play a key role in persistent calls for justice. In Chapter 3, Martin Bortz took a comparative, narrative approach to analysing policy change.

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Narrative Research Now
Critical Perspectives on the Promise of Stories
, pp. 158 - 164
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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