Thursday, March 11, 2010

Narrative Research: An Excuse for Historicism or a Voice for the Marginalized?

My doctoral supervisor has suggested that I present my research in a narrative style rather than in the more traditional modernist form in which one states a hypothesis, tests it, and then discusses. My masters dissertation was written in the later style and I am certainly more comfortable with it.
However I agree with my supervisor that using such a traditional modernist format in my doctoral thesis would create quite a bit of cognitive dissonance because the theories that I am working with, primarily Performativity and Symmetrical Analysis, imply a fairly relativistic epistemological approach to the world.

I am, however, quite sensitive to the critques of Narrative Research. I have an instinctual aversion to strongly ideological accounts of history or any other topic for that matter and accept that the narrative style is very susceptible to historicism, or as it is called in it politics, "spin."

On the other hand I am also convinced that relying on explicit methodologies is neither as practically possible as we would like to think or even an effective barrier to historicism. Rather in practice such methodologies simply tend to privilege the knowledge derived from them and in doing so marginalize alternate explanations. Which is why narrative research is important and valuable because it gives those alternate explanations, or narratives, a place to be told.