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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 to Section III (Paul William Eaton)


← 150 | 151 →


Introduction to Section III


The idea that we have to “know” something is perpetuated in the academy, modernist science, and through engines of the capitalist academic–industrial complex. We might say that Western culture is obsessed with knowledge—the need to reduce all phenomena to discrete, quantifiable objects. Where did this desire for knowledge as commodity arise? How did we collectively internalize this belief in “knowing” as “real?” These questions border on the heretical. They suggest the purpose of research might not be “knowing,” but rather “unknowing.” Unknowing acknowledges that the cosmos is indeterminate, because it is always emerging and in flux. Unknowing suggests we can never “know” the world, the best we can do is “be” present to the continual awe and wonder of the cosmos.

The chapters in this section do not invoke the terms neoliberal or capitalist, but we employ them here quite purposely. Neoliberalism, rooted in an ideology of free-market fundamentalism, privatized and individualistic accomplishment, economic efficiency and return on investment, and reductionist notions of diminishing everything worth doing or thinking into data points that can be easily analyzed, manipulated, and ultimately commodified, is wreaking havoc on the present-day academy (Giroux, 2014). The so-called “knowledge economy” was predicted at various points in history, but here we draw on Lyotard’s (1979/1984) discussion of the relationship between science and knowledge. Lyotard questions: ← 151 | 152 → “who decides what knowledge is, and who knows what...

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