We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our site. Click here to find out more. Allow cookies
Narrative Theory

Teacher Education Quarterly

The Rise of the Life Narrative

Interestingly, Denzin (1991) has recently argued that ethnographers and biographers represent the latest wave in this “penetration” of private lives, and that this is to be expected at a time when we see “the emergence of a new conservative politics of health and morality, centering on sexuality, the family and the individual” (p. 2).

Hence he argues:

The biography and the autobiography are among Reagan’s legacy to American society. In these writing forms the liberal and left American academic scholarly community reasserts a commitment to the value of individual lives and their accurate representation in the life story document. The story thus becomes the left’s answer to the repressive conservative politics of the last two decades of American history. With this method the sorrowful tales of America’s underclass can be told. In such tellings a romantic and political identification with the downtrodden will be produced. From this identification will come a new politics of protest; a politics grounded in the harsh and raw economics, racial, and sexual edges of contemporary life. This method will reveal how large social groupings are unable to either live out their ideological versions of the American dream, or to experience personal happiness. (p. 2)

And further:

In re-inscribing the real life, with all its nuances, innuendoes and terrors, in the life story, researchers perpetuate a commitment to the production of realist, melodramatic social problems texts which create an identification with the downtrodden in American society. These works of realism reproduce and mirror the social structures that need to be changed. They valorise the subjectivity of the powerless individual. They make a hero of the interactionist-ethnographer voyeur who comes back from the field with moving tales of the dispossessed. They work from an ideological bias that emphasizes the situational, adjustive, and normative approach to social problems and their resolutions, whether this be in the classroom and their resolutions, whether this be in the classroom, the street, or the home. (ibid, pp. 2-3)

The rise of the life narrative clearly comes with a range of problems and also possibilities for the social scientist. By scrutinising the wider social context of life narratives, we can begin to appreciate the dilemmas of qualitative work, which focuses on personal narratives and life stories.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Next page

  • Date of publication: 08/08/2012
  • Publisher: Teacher Education Quarterly
  • Subject:
    Narrative Theory
  • Available in:
  • Appears in:
    Teacher Education Quarterly
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: Free
  • Purchase this book:
    Teacher Education Quarterly