Session: Narrative Ethnography: Theory, Method, and Applications in Social Work Research (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

36 Narrative Ethnography: Theory, Method, and Applications in Social Work Research

Cluster: Research Design and Measurement

Kathleen Wells, PhD, Case Western Reserve University , Roberta G. Sands, PhD, University of Pennsylvania and Margareta Hydén, PhD, Linköping University
Friday, January 15, 2010: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Seacliff C (Hyatt Regency)
Over the past twenty years, there has been an explosion of interest in qualitative research methods. Prominent among these methods is narrative analysis—a family of related methods directed to understanding the content, structure, or function of “story”, variously defined (Riessman & Quinny, 2005). Some of these approaches to narrative analysis overlook important contextual elements that contribute to the meaning of stories, while others assume context without making it a part of the analysis. Both ways of dealing with narrative context do not allow the investigator to draw links between the “story” and the circumstances in which it has been told – a severe limitation for a context-dependent field such as social work. Jaber Gubrium and James Holstein (2009) have taken a major step toward conceptualization of how such linkages may be made with the publication of their new volume, Analyzing Narrative Reality. The Gubrium and Holstein approach, an approach they call narrative ethnography, builds on concepts and methods developed within the social sciences and the humanities. It weds text-based methods of narrative analysis with field-based methods of ethnography. The purpose of the proposed workshop is to introduce participants to their work and to illustrate its use in order to spur contextually-relevant narrative research both in the U. S. and abroad. In the workshop, three experienced qualitative researchers will define and illustrate the potential of narrative ethnography with examples of empirical research conducted in the United States, Israel, and Sweden. During the first quarter of the workshop, the first panelist will provide an overview of narrative ethnography. Relying on a prepared statement, she will specify the place of this approach within this family of methods, define its methodological orientation, central question, and sensitizing concepts, and then articulate the approach taken to validity within this perspective. A list of references and a summary of concepts will be provided. During the next part of the workshop, the second and third panelists will illustrate this approach to narrative analysis with empirical investigations. The second panelist, drawing on ethnographically-informed research on how non-Orthodox Jewish mothers living in the U. S. adapt to their daughters' commitment to an orthodox religious community in Israel, will show how narrative ethnography works in practice. The third panelist, drawing on ethnographically-informed research at a youth detention home for girls in Sweden, will show the appropriateness of a context-sensitive approach, while entering this particular physical and discursive domain. The third panelist will also present a context-sensitive form of interview, the “Teller-Focused Interview”. Each will rely on prepared statements, will compare and contrast the relative advantage of narrative ethnography over text-based forms of narrative analysis, and will provide references and a summary of illustrative points made. During the final quarter of the workshop, workshop participants will be divided into small groups, with each group discussing, under the guidance of a panelist, the merits of a narrative ethnographic approach and its potential to advance international social work knowledge, in recognition of the conference theme.
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