... There is no best way to tell a story about society. Many genres, many methods, many formats - they can all do the trick. Instead of ideal ways to do it, the world gives us possibilities among which we choose. Every way of telling the story of a society does some of the job superbly but other parts not so well......
Howard S Becker Telling About Society 2007 : 285
... Be a good craftsman: Avoid any rigid set of procedures.. Avoid the fetishism of method and technique...Let every person be their own methodologist; let every person be their own theorist...... and so on
C.Wright Mills The Sociological Imagination 1959 Appendix
Please note: this course will run for two days on the 3rd and 4th February 2011
This course will look at some key recent trends in qualitative research, but especially the concern with narratives and stories. Story tellings, and the narratives that accompany them, are basic human social processes. We are the narrating animal. Although such story tellings are often neglected in the orthodoxies of social research, they are usually critical to every stage of the human social research process. In the broadest terms we study the stories that people tell of their lives; we connect these stories to the stories of our lives; and we ultimately represent them as our ‘social science stories’ – in essays, theses, books, films, photos, media, conferences, exhibitions. Story telling also places a critical role in shaping political debate and in ethical choices. Humanistic research places the human story at the research centre and adopts humanistic values in such research. It is interested in a wide array of tools for telling these stories – including photos, self analysis, artefacts, documentaries.
This two day course will probe and investigate, amongst other things:
- The nature and rise of what might be called ‘humanistic research’
- the centrality and meaning of ‘story telling’ in our lives, social life and social research;
- the techniques of story telling (from life story/autobiography to website blog, from documentary to auto/ethnography);
- the tactics and key strategies of narrative analysis;
- the key modes in which social science tells/reports/writes/presents/performs its ‘findings’;
- the implications of such an approach for politics and ethics: the grounded everyday moralities and the ethics of research
The key background reading should be my book Ken Plummer Documents of Life-2: An Invitation to a Critical Humanism.(2001) (NOT The earlier 1983 edition - HM24.P6 and in short loan in the Albert Sloman Library). This book has now gone out of print but Sage have made it an E Book which can be bought from Sage; and it is on line from the Essex Library). Ideally look at Chapters 1-4 before the course starts to get a feel for the topics; a detailed bibliography will be provided on the course. Amongst the key stories we will be considering will be health narratives, sexual stories, and ‘tales of suffering’. The sessions will be run in an open fashion – mixing mini lectures, discussions, and activities of various kinds.
Provisional Timetable: please prepare before coming
||Introduction to ourselves, humanistic research and the social worlds of story telling.
||Examining the tools of story telling – from life story to digital blog.
||Lunch break (note: lunch is not provided)
||Analysing narratives: a workshop on strategies for doing narrative research
||Presenting and Performing social science – an examination of ‘writing strategies’
||Lunch break (note: lunch is not provided)
||The Voices of Stories: Politics and ethics in social research
||Overview and conclusions
Coffee and tea breaks will be arranged as needed.
Before the course
It will help if you can bring one small sample of a life document with which you are familiar to the first class as an example, and be willing to say a few words about it. This could be a piece of research you are involved with, but it could equally be photos, letters, interview, field notes, observation, or even a blog, a sentimental treasure, a documentary film, a passport or a favourite poem, painting or piece of music! Almost anything in fact that interests you. You might also like to think about what you hope to get from the course.
Possible other prior reading
A feature of the course will be the comprehensive reading guide which will be provided during the course. For the moment, here are some good starting points:
- Howard S Becker Telling about Society (2007) Chicago
- C.Wright Mills The Sociological Imagination : Appendix (1962) Oxford
- Les Back The Art of Listening (2007) Berg
- Adele Clarke (2005) Situational Analysis: Grounded theory after the Postmodern Turn Sage
- Kay Schaffer & Sidonie Smith Human Rights and Narrated Lives: The ethics of recognition (2004) Palgrave
- John Lofland et al (2004 4th edition) Analysing Social Settings Wadsworth
- Norman Denzin The Qualitative Manifesto. (2010) Left Bank Press
Life stories/ Autobiographical Turns
- Jane Elliott Using Narrative in Social Research (2005) Sage
- Catherine Kohler Reisman Narrative Methods for the Human Sciences (2007) Sage
- Brian Roberts Biographical Research (2002) Open University
- Norman Denzin Interpretive Biography (1989) Sage
- Sidonie Smith & Julia Watson (2001) Reading Autobiography: A guide for interpreting life narrative Minnesota
- Arthur Frank The Wounded Storyteller: Body Illness and Ethics, 1997 Chicago
You can book tickets using our online booking form.
This event is open to the general public.