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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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Introduction: Getting in Trouble


Thus my design is not here to teach the Method which everyone should follow in order to promote the good conduct of his Reason, but only to show in what manner I have endeavored to conduct my own.

René Descartes, Discourse on the Method, 1637

Despite René Descartes’ humble disclaimer, method would become the foundation of the modern world—science, reason, and democracy. Discourse on the Method has been called the “dividing line in the history of thought. Everything that came before it is old; everything that came after it is new” (Shorto, 2008, p. 16). This new thought was method and its consequence was modernity. Yet, the fact that “method” emerged at a particular point in history has been obscured given that it now has the force of inevitability. To trouble method is to acknowledge not only that it is the consequence of a particular time and place, but that it is not inevitable, natural, or universal. That method no longer has a complete stranglehold on human thought became apparent in the late 20th century when the interpretive and linguistic turn in the social sciences resulted in a “crisis of representation” that challenged traditional, modernist epistemological paradigms by problematizing the very nature of knowledge as objective and corresponding to any reality (Clifford & Marcus, 1986; Derrida & Spivak, 1977; Foucault, 1980; ← 1 | 2 → Geertz, 1977; Harding, 1987; Lather, 2013; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Lyotard, 1984; Polkinghorne, 1988; Wolcott, 1990). These critiques, while challenging...

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