The use of narratives analysis in life stories


This essay will evaluate critically the use of narratives analysis in life stories as a research method in social sciences. I will first describe what is the narrative analysis or the narrative inquiry. Then I will describe some of the uses that this method has and finally I will describe some of the limitations of the method.

In the last thirty years, interpretive research and to a lesser extent, narrative inquiry emerged, developed and disseminated with relative amplitude and legitimacy in the field of social theory. Until recently, these research traditions were rather marginal in the academic world, since its emergence they have managed to challenge and question traditional ways of thinking and doing social research (Zeller, 1998). These modes of inquiry pretend to provide descriptions that assist in understanding how the process of "making sense of one's actions" in different social settings historically and geographically contextualised based on the interpretation of their knowledge, beliefs, motivations, values, subjective intentions and interactions with 'others' (Bolivar 2002). Narrative and interpretive inquiry may have different uses as the informants speak for themselves, without silencing their subjectivities.

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The different perspectives of interpretive and narrative research in social sciences are largely inherited from the "hermeneutic turn narrative" produced in the late '60s and early '70s of the field of social theory and research. In those years, there was an important epistemological shift, the new hermeneutic perspective, in which the meaning produced by social actors in their speeches, actions and interactions becomes the central focus of the investigation. In this new frame, then, began to understand the social phenomena not as 'objects' or 'things' but rather as 'practical consciousness' (Giddens 1997) or as 'texts subject to interpretation' (Ricoeur 2001). The value and definitions of the the interpretations are defined as self-interpretations and understandings of social subjects, told in first person, where the temporal and biographical dimensions are central, instead of external categorizations and abstract or formal generalisations vainly attempting to capture its objectivity (Bolivar, 2002). Then the professional researchers develop interpretations and explanations, based on a set of specific principles and theoretical and methodological standards.

In this transformation of the rooted assumptions in social theories and methodologies, converged a series of different theoretical perspectives such as symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, phenomenology, Frankfurt critical theory, and others linked with the hermeneutic tradition. Beyond the important differences that exist between them, together had the effect to pierce the monopoly of scientific legitimacy of the orthodox consensus, and defining a new consensus on social theory, increasingly widespread and influential, which also reached educational research and teaching. For Giddens (1995: 17 and 18), two new shared assumptions are fundamental and defining "active character, reflective of human behavior "and" (the award) a fundamental role to language and cognitive abilities in explaining social life. " In a sort of "hermeneutic double ", recognizes that the social partners know or understand about what we as they do, and that there is no limitation line between the "Reflections sociological by lay actors "and similar research efforts specialists. "Narratives of the people and the researcher's narrative merge productively to understand social reality "(Bolivar, 2002: 44). Thus, it is recognized that "lay actors are social theorists whose theories attending training activities and institutions that are the subject of study specialized social observers and social scientists "(Giddens, 1995: 33), and that "Practical consciousness" and the personal, subjective, biographies of social life tend to express themselves and make sense through stories, to the same extent that human time is structured in a narrative (Ricoeur, 2001). Narrative practices social actors relate well to an open category of discursive practices that almost provided concerning the construction and reconstruction of events, including the states conscience of those who carry on, in an order or sequence of places so as to imply a certain direction or orientation toward a goal, setting up your sense ("narrative intrigue). From this point of view, then, can be considered structured as a quality human and social experience, understood and seen as a story. These stories are dynamic reconstructions of experiences in which their actors give meaning to what happened and lived through a reflective process and therefore general recursive. So from this perspective we can say that the narratives structure our social practices and that this "language of practice" tends to clarify the purposes of these practices, making the film narrative does not flow only about them but also the set up and collaborate to produce. But also narrative is also considered a particular approach to research that focuses on study the practices of actors lay narratives. In the words of Connelly and Clandinin (1995: 11 and 12)

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One of the uses of Narrative analysis research is when on of the aims of the research is focused in the transformation of

The new focus on narrative research in social sciences is in the context of postmodernity. Many of the research questions that are emerging are related to identities, subjectivities and emotions. The narrative research provide a structure for our sense of self and identity because while we create our life stories we are narrating our identity.

The main reason for the use of narrative in educational research is that humans are storytelling organisms, organs,individually and socially, we live lives reported. The study of narrative, so So is the study of how humans experience the world. This general idea comes from the idea that education is the construction and re-construction of personal and social histories, both teachers and Students are also storytellers and characters in stories others and their own (...) (Therefore) we understand that the narrative is both phenomenon under investigation and the method of research. In fact, by his attachment to this new consensus hermeneutic research narrative is intended as a specific research approach that demands its own credibility and legitimacy to build knowledge in education, and alters some certainties of settled modes of research, making this practice more accessible, natural and democratic. Telling stories that are educational actors involved through action, and interpret these practices in light of the stories tell them, thus stands in a peculiar perspective of educational research contesting legitimacy to naturalism, objectivism and functionalism that structure and orthodoxy defined epistemological, theoretical and methodological knowledge to build valid in education. But also to challenge conventional ways of thinking and do educational research, the most critical and committed versions of interpretative approach also provided valuable ideas to establish a vigorous conversation, stimulating and horizontal with the actors of the practices teachers, and to try to transform them through participative, collaborative and collective narrative and ethnographic inquiry and pedagogical intervention in the world school (Battle, 1988, 1998 and 2006, Kincheloe, 2001).

To the outlook for collaborative and participatory action research Anderson and Herr, 2005), intellectual tasks, interpretations and practices Critical ethnography and narrative inquiry are not confined only to provide insights contextualized the world of school and teaching practices, and recover as closely as possible the "voices", words, emotions and biographies of the teachers, to then silenced, disqualified or distorted by the expert knowledge and Orthodox researchers. On the contrary, believe that these tasks can only be critical and alternatives to the extent that their work strategies are aimed at building collectively showing knowledge and explain also the ideological anchors teaching practices and narratives of teachers and at the same time, be action-oriented processing of the situations and relationships that complaint. For this radical vision of the narrative and interpretive research, the transformation of world of school and teaching practices "comes from within." The change will be possible through the development and dissemination of new and increasingly dense descriptions and self-descriptions of what they do, think and say the teachers and others school, through the collective construction and talk about new ways of naming to phenomena, objects, actors and relationships of school everyday. For as commitment to a particular practice is in some ways the possibility and competence to speak the language of the practice, changes in the language of practice can be seen as changes in the practice itself (McEwan, 1998). And if those new ways of saying and writing the world and what we do and think the actors are made collectively, enrich the community of practices and discourses in which move and build their identities, show the polychrome and polyphony of life shared social and bring to the scene and narrative intrigue stories critical elements historical and social context in which it operates, we can imagine another education, other schools and other educational practices are possible. Narrative documentation of educational experiences and critical reconstruction of world of school and teaching practices Narrative documentation of educational experiences is part of the field educational research as a particular form of narrative inquiry and interpretation that seeks to reconstruct, document, render publicly available back stress and critical sense, pedagogical understandings and interpretations teachers construct, reconstruct and negotiate when they write, read, reflect and conversing with colleagues about educational practices. Thus its devices generate and project work and collaborative spaces horizontal relationships between academic researchers and teachers narrators with the intention to form "Communities of mutual caring" are aimed at individual and collective production educational narratives that account for the ways in which teachers structure their lives professionals give meaning to their instructional practices and present themselves as assets of savvy school, and suggests the generation and disposal new forms of public educational language and stories critical of teaching through specialized educational interpretation. Narrative documentation goes, this way to innovate in the ways of appealing to teachers and calling for the reconstruction memory of school teaching in the existing modes objectify it, legitimize it and spread it, and the strategies used to bring it into circulation and public deliberation. For that, designs and develops ways of working pedagogical aim at providing not only the ability to anticipate, but also back on what has been done, experienced and full of meaning separate from the school experience, through writing, reading, conversation and debate among peers. Through them, narrative documentation processes carried out collaboratively by teachers and researchers are presented as valid ways to redesign, expansion and transformation of their own teaching practice in the unprecedented inroads in what is silenced as yet undescribed or above (Smith, 2003, 2004 and 2005).

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Thus, for example, Roberts (2002, p. 115) notes that the narrative study the lives of the people "has become a substantive area for the analysis of the experiences of life and identity connected with social groups, situations and events. " In fact, the narratives also provide a structure for our sense of self and identity because the Once we have stories about our lives create an identity narrative. As noted by Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach & Zilber (1998), relations between identity and narrative are extremely complex and varied. For them, no story or one-dimensional in their voices and identity can be many components and layers. Despite this complexity, consider that forms of narrative analysis are adequate for understanding these relationships, that identity is a narrative construction. Narrative analysis allows systematic study of meaning and personal experience and is very useful for explore the qualities of human thought and the power of stories to redefine identity.

The narrative turn has also been considered adequate for understanding meanings which people compose the world. The meaning is basic to human beings and human nature is the active construction meaning. In this sense, the study of narratives and stories can understand the meanings that express, organize and create in them (Bruner, 2002). Another reason for this shift is that stories can illuminate largely personal. In fact, people tell stories that are useful because they provide information about the worlds themselves internalized or others, allowing researchers to delve into the experiences of people in the postmodern world (Crossley, 2003; Goodley, 2001). However, the stories are not only personal, social and also something cultural. As noted Cortazzi (1993, p. 2) narrative analysis can be seen as "A window into the mind or, if we are analyzing the narratives of an specific group of reporters, as a window into their culture. " Therefore, the study of narrative can be used to explore the subjectivities individual and group. The study of narrative is useful for what they reveal of social life, as culture 'speaks for itself' through history individual. This is because, as noted by Murray (1999, p. 53), "the narratives are not, despite appearances, springs emanating from the minds individual people but are social creations. Born in a culture that has developed a stock of narratives which we appropriate and apply in our daily social interaction. " That is, the individual stories people are at the same time, personal and social. The potential of narrative studies to explore relationships between identity and culture has been recognized in the field of health and disease, especially to access the personal world of illness. As pointed out by Bury (2001, p. 264), "on one hand, explores the stories of chronic disease sheds light on the nature of the break and experience upset, their meanings and actions to deal with it. Moreover, the study of these narratives have the potential to reveal a significant group of issues about the relationship between identity, experience and cultures 'Late modernity'. " The dialectical relationship between people and the culture that fall is observed when people tell their own stories disease, since narratives are composed of combinations that culture is available (Frank, 1995). From this point of view, the approach narrative, rather than see people as mere passive recipients allows investigate the relationships between personal actions (agency) and structure social. As noted Goodley, Lawthom, Clough, & Moore (2004): We believe that the stories of life - our chosen form of narrative-us say a lot of individuals and the community of public and private, the structural and the personal and real and fictional worlds. Stories occupy a central place in the knowledge society … The politicized narratives are always structured, cultured and socialized … Stories are our best hope to capture structures that continually shape, split and divide things human. (P.p. VIIII-x)


The limitations of narrative research. It is focus on narratives, which are stories full of values.

If, as we have noted, narrative inquiry offers many opportunities to explore the self and identities, personal and social well the relationships between identities and cultures or agency and structure, also contains some problems and dangers. The literature suggests specific the narrative turn reduce the danger of self and identity to a simple language game. In this sense, Crossley (2003) & Freeman (2003) suggest to conceptualize their lives especially in terms of language, ie to equivalent identity and narrative, can result in a kind of or linguistic determinism and social reductionism. Rather than considering that ' identity is a narrative 'or' the narrative identity ', some authors are more cautious in pointing out that the self and identities are formed while tell stories about their own lives (Ezzy, 1998; Kerby, 1991). In this sense, Eakin (1999, p. 125) says that narrative plays a central role instructuring of the sense of identity and self, but believes that "it is a mistake narrative identity to be equivalent to the entire experience of self. "Craib (2000) also points out that often, researchers idealize the stories of life and eliminate uncomfortable psychological realities. As Day points Sclater (2003, p. 3), we must recognize "the power of language without losing sight of the meaning of the psychic realities. "Therefore, from our point of view, the responsible use of narrative turn implies the balanced use of power language in the construction and reconstruction of identity and self, without forget that there are other forms of human experience.