Abstract: Stories and Narratives As a Response to Socio-Structural-Historical Experiences of Oppression (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Stories and Narratives As a Response to Socio-Structural-Historical Experiences of Oppression

Friday, January 13, 2023
Ahwatukee A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Pei-Jung Yang, PhD, Associate Professor, National Chengchi University, Taiwan
Background and Purpose: Socio-structural-historical experiences of oppression have adversely caused forgetting in the memories of many generations of Indigenous Taiwanese. Cultural narratives relating to indigenous Taiwanese’s traditions, ways of living, and teaching are disappearing. Forgetting is a crucial method to maintain systems of oppression and to sustain or even prevail the reality defined by the oppressors (Clarke & Yellow Bird, 2021). Using a historical trauma-posttraumatic growth approach (HT-PTG; Ortega-Williams et al., 2021), this study aimed to examine the way stories and narratives might act as a response to forgetting through actions of re-telling, re-creating or re-experiencing cultural traditions.

Methods: Using qualitative life story interview method, data was collected from twelve Indigenous Taiwanese tribal workers, each of whom were involved in collective actions that aimed to foster the live and welfare of their tribal communities. Psycho-Social Ethnography of the Commonplace (P-SEC) method was then used to analyze the data focusing particularly on experiences of systemic oppression and structural disparities and interpretation and coping of such experiences.

Findings: Forgetting is analyzed in terms of the way it is executed by the oppressors and the way it is experienced and perceived by the oppressed. It is found that the oppressed might perceive forgetting as fault of their own. For example, they might assume the responsibility for not passing on the cultural heritage to the next generations. Upon attempts to recover the forgotten narratives, the oppressed might respond with doubts as they do not see value in what have been forgotten. Therefore, even though stories and narratives are believed to be transformative and healing, it requires ongoing relentless effort in a culturally sensitive way for stories and narratives to emerge. Stories and narratives re-created or re-experienced in collective forms are particularly powerful, not only because the collective group felt a sense of pride and ownership of their narratives, but also because their narratives connected the past, present, and future generations.

Conclusion and Implications: Using the historical trauma-posttraumatic growth framework (HT-PTG; Ortega-Williams et al., 2021), this study demonstrated that individual- and community-level growth is possible through stories and narratives. Through which, new relating to self, family, community, and ancestry is experienced, allowing new cultural legacy to surface that brings hope, strengths, and possibilities. Stories and narratives, particularly those expressed and experienced in collective actions, may ripple among generations of people and through history of time, hence creating strong interconnectedness that might be used against the generation-long socio-structural-historical oppression experienced by the indigenous populations.