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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 IV After Birth: Reflections on Writing and Negotiating the Triple Braid

Extract

My autobiographical journey: The politics of writing self and the acts of finding voice The function of stories within each culture is culturally specific but commonality can be found. Stories have the potential to bridge across cultural and inter-generational barriers and gaps. Each gap shifts with time. Each story shifts each time it is told. Something is changed for the teller as well as the listener. (Journal excerpts) Writing my own life has begun as an intuitive and creative process. I begin with my earliest memories as an infant and as I begin writing my childhood memories in a chronological way, I return to those memories as a child. I have written in ways that can be described as childlike and simple. Even though I have returned to add to some of these early writings, most of the original writings remain untouched. Being in that childlike state of mind and body, I am able to write in a simple, direct and free way. The chronological frame holds these early autobiographical writings and provides a comforting and safe container for the raw and organic writings that have emerged. Women’s self-image is projected by the very means used to distance or detach themselves from intimacy in their life stories—a variety of forms of understate- ment. In place of growing narratives, women tend to write in a straightforward and objective manner about both their girlhood and adult experiences. They also write 230 obliquely, elliptically, or humorously in order to camouflage their feelings,...

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