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Troubling Method

Narrative Research as Being

Petra Munro Hendry, Roland Mitchell and Paul Eaton

Troubling Method seeks to extract narrative inquiry from method. The shift to a post-humanist, post-qualitative moment is not just another stage in modernism that seeks to "improve" knowledge production, but is a shift to understanding research as an ontology, a way of being in the world, rather than a mode of production. Fundamental assumptions of research: method, data, analysis, and findings are deconstructed and reconfigured as a mode of relational intra-action.

Troubling Method is constructed as a dialogue between the three authors, focusing on their work as qualitative, narrative researchers. The authors revisit six previously published works in which they grapple with the contradictions and ironies of engaging in pragmatist, critical, and feminist qualitative research. After a lengthy introduction which problematizes "method," the book is divided into three sections, each with two chapters that are bracketed by an introduction to the issues discussed in the chapters and then a "dialogue interlude" in which the authors deliberate what makes possible the questions they are raising about method and narrative research. The three sections attend to the central premises of "narrative research as being": 1) relationships, 2) listening, and 3) unknowing.

Troubling Method is ideal for introductory or advanced courses in qualitative research, narrative inquiry, educational research, and those aimed at employing critical theories in qualitative and narrative inquiry.

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5. Narrative as Inquiry (Petra Munro Hendry)


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Narrative as Inquiry


It could be argued that narrative research is the first and oldest form of inquiry. If this is the case, then all research traditions originate from narrative. Narrative means “to account” and is derived from the term gno, meaning to know. The oral storytelling traditions of earliest man were narrative inquiries that sought to address questions of meaning and knowing. For the Greeks, there were both episteme, knowledge of the practical or everyday (also termed logical-rational thought), and gnosis or poesis (also termed mytho-poetic), knowledge related to the larger questions of meaning. Both modes were accounts of knowledge; they were narratives that were seen not as oppositional but rather as complementary (Davis, 2004). The epistemological roots of the scientific and humanistic traditions can be traced to narrative when narrative is understood as the primary way in which humans make meaning (Bakhtin, 1981; Barthes, 1996/1974; Bruner, 1986; Ricoeur, 1981).1 If inquiry (research) is understood as meaning-making, then all inquiry is narrative. Resituating all inquiry as narrative, as opposed to characterizing narrative as one particular form of inquiry, provides a critical space for rethinking research beyond current dualisms and bifurcations. The current typology of research in which science (positivist) and narrative (interpretavist) are understood as two incommensurate modes of inquiry in the Kuhnian sense functions to create boundaries that limit the capacity for dialogue. These barriers ← 159 | 160 → impede the very possibility...

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