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Black Women’s Narratives of NHS Work-Based Learning: An Ethnodrama

The Difference between Rhetoric and Lived Experience

Peggy Warren

This is an eight-scene drama portraying black women reliving their journey through higher education and work-based learning. Black women’s voices are the focus, reflecting on the complexities and dynamics of institutional power, professional exploitation, silencing, subordination and non-transformative education. A black feminist standpoint theoretical approach with an autoethnographic presentation invites the reader into the camaraderie, emotions, tears and laughter of a cohort of mature black healthcare workers engaging in a foundation degree with a promise of promotion. The author captures the voices of the women, weaves in her own account and sets the stories in fictional locations. Using cultural sayings, black philosophy and black music in a creative way, this work offers a platform from which to start discussions on black women’s labour in the NHS.

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This ethnodrama with ‘our’ narratives and stories has been set in what is classified as the post-colonial, post-modernist paradigm. Bochner (2014) argues that autoethnography was birthed from thinking and questioning differently. He asks:

Can my work achieve importance? Can it matter if our authors aren’t willing to show their faces? Should one of the standards by which social science enquiry is judged be the extent to which readers feel the truth of our stories. So, seeking to open a space for this kind of enquiry … (p. 4)

The Sankofa concept fuelled and sustained me throughout the years of this project. Sankofa means: ‘go back, learn from the past, then move forward.’ Autoethnography, as an approach to presenting our narratives, supported my aim to engage with the past so we can be wiser in the ways in which we respond to what institutions offer us, labelled as opportunities. Bochner (2014) posits:

You can’t bear the thought of losing the past or making it disappear as it did for your parents. The mission of all story tellers is to keep history alive but it’s not your own it’s the calling of all storytellers to go back and reclaim the past, pay attention this time, figure out what you can do with your stories, keep memory alive; make it meaningful. There is no reason to relive the past unless it can help you to anticipate the future. We seek a more just world in which...

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