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Writing Against, Alongside and Beyond Memory

Lifewriting as Reflexive, Poststructuralist Feminist Research Practice

Marilyn Metta

Marilyn Metta is the cowinner of the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry 2011 Qualitative Book Award.
Memory, embedded in our scripts of the past, inscribed in our bodies and reflected in the collective memory of every family, group and community, occupies one of the most controversial and contested sites over what constitutes legitimate knowledge-making.
Using a reflexive feminist research methodology, the author is involved with memory-work in creating three life narratives written in different narrative styles: her mother’s and father’s biographies and her own autobiography/autoethnography.
By exploring the intersections of race, gender, ethnicity and culture in the social and cultural constructions of identities in lifewriting, this book maps the underlying politics of storytelling and storymaking, and investigates the political, social, pedagogical and therapeutic implications of writing personal life narratives for feminist scholarship, research and practice.
As a Chinese-Australian woman engaging in reflexive, creative and imaginative lifewriting, the author hopes to create new spaces and add new voices to the small but emerging Asian Australian scholarly literature.


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CHAPTER II The Umbilical of Life: The Triple Braid


This chapter presents the three lifewriting narratives: my autobiogra- phy, my mother’s biography and my father’s imaginative biography. I offer these lifewriting narratives to be read as the core narrative texts with which to evaluate the research methodological frameworks and reflections in the following two chapters. I will like to note here that the lifewriting narratives in this chapter have been written largely alongside the methodological chapter, and I encourage the readers to read and engage with the life narratives with the mindfulness that these narratives form a central part of the research focus and process. My story: A metamorphosis A daughter born I was one of the first babies born in the newly opened Penang Medi- cal Centre in 1973. My parents drove two hours from our hometown in Alor Star, West Malaysia to Penang Island, awaiting my birth. My birth was both an accident and planned. The year before I was con- ceived, an old fortune-teller that my mother frequented told her that she needed an ox child strong enough to carry her, a goat. So when I was conceived, to be born in 1973, the Year of the Ox, I did not suf- fer the fate of the three earlier aborted siblings. For some reason, my mother was also convinced that I was to be a son so when I was born she also had instructed the doctor to tie her tubes while he re- attached her fallen uterine walls and re-stitched her tattered vaginal 74 walls...

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