You are on page 1of 25

Interdisciplinary research

methods in Women’s and


Gender Studies:
Life narrative
Nora Augustine ✎ WGST 101 ✎ Fall 2016
Overview
✎ Research methods in WGST 101 and beyond.
✎ Introduction to life narrative research.
✎ Reading (auto)biographical texts.
✎ Postscript: Women’s creativity.
✎ Research methods in

WGST at UNC WGST 101 and beyond.


● “Interdisciplinary”?
● Quantitative vs.
qualitative.
“Women’s and Gender Studies expands the ● Case study: Women
and mental illness.
process of knowledge production by considering
✎ Intro to life narratives.
what it means to take gender, race, class, and ● Brief history of life
narratives.
sexuality seriously in our explanations of the ● Review: Life narrative
world. It provides a methodology that is and WGST.

interdisciplinary, multicultural, and ✎ Reading autobiography.


● Genre, genre, genre.
feminist. Our goal is to offer courses and ● Autobiographical

programming that take full account of the subjects.


● Making generalizations.
broadest spectrum of issues concerning women
✎ Postscript: Women’s
and gender in the U.S. and globally.” creativity.
✎ Research methods in
WGST 101 and beyond.

Consider your major: ● “Interdisciplinary”?


● Quantitative vs.
qualitative.
● Case study: Women
and mental illness.
✎ What kind of information is important?
✎ Intro to life narratives.
● Brief history of life
✎ How(/when/where) is information collected? narratives.
● Review: Life narrative

✎ How is information shared? and WGST.

✎ Reading autobiography.
✎ What is valued by scholars in this field? ● Genre, genre, genre.
● Autobiographical
subjects.
● Making generalizations.

✎ Postscript: Women’s
creativity.
In general...
How do we know what we know?

Why does it matter?


(Epistemology: The theory of knowledge and understanding, especially
with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology examines
the difference between opinions and justified beliefs.)
✎ Research methods in

Quantitative research WGST 101 and beyond.


● “Interdisciplinary”?
● Quantitative vs.
qualitative.
● Case study: Women
✎ Structured hypothesis and methods. and mental illness.

✎ Intro to life narratives.


✎ Focuses on measuring and applying facts. ● Brief history of life
narratives.
✎ Large sample size (more representative). ● Review: Life narrative
and WGST.

✎ Values objectivity and reliability. ✎ Reading autobiography.


● Genre, genre, genre.

➪ Example: Laboratory studies, surveys / ● Autobiographical


subjects.
● Making generalizations.
questionnaires, statistical analysis...
✎ Postscript: Women’s
creativity.
✎ Research methods in

Qualitative research WGST 101 and beyond.


● “Interdisciplinary”?
● Quantitative vs.
qualitative.
● Case study: Women
✎ Less structured/multiple hypotheses. and mental illness.

✎ Intro to life narratives.


✎ Focuses on observing and describing data. ● Brief history of life
narratives.
✎ Smaller sample size (greater detail). ● Review: Life narrative
and WGST.

✎ Values subjectivity and theorizing. ✎ Reading autobiography.


● Genre, genre, genre.

➪ Example: Interviews, focus groups, participant ● Autobiographical


subjects.
● Making generalizations.
observation, textual analysis…
✎ Postscript: Women’s
creativity.
Case study: Women and mental illness
Anthropologist: “How do
women’s sociocultural
contexts interact with their
experiences of mental
Psychiatrist: “What causes illness? Is illness experienced
mental illness in women? differently by people of
Do women’s biological states different genders?”
(genetics, hormones, brain
chemistry, etc) make them Literary Critic: “How do
more or less vulnerable to women interpret mental
certain disorders?” illness in literary narratives?
What do their stories tell us
Activist: “Do mental illness about the meaning of mental
narratives directly affect illness and gender in relation
human’s understandings of to human identity?”
gender and illness? Can we
use these texts as a tool in
clinical settings, public
health campaigns, etc?”
Case study: Women and mental illness
Anthropologist: “How do
women’s sociocultural
contexts interact with their
experiences of mental
Psychiatrist: “What causes illness? Is illness experienced
mental illness in women? differently by people of
Do women’s biological states different genders?”
(genetics, hormones, brain
chemistry, etc) make them Literary Critic: “How do
more or less vulnerable to women interpret mental
certain disorders?” illness in literary narratives?
What do their stories tell us
Activist: “Do mental illness about the meaning of mental
narratives directly affect illness and gender in relation
human’s understandings of to human identity?”
gender and illness? Can we
use these texts as a tool in
clinical settings, public
health campaigns, etc?”
✎ Research methods in
What can we seek? WGST 101 and beyond.
● “Interdisciplinary”?
● Quantitative vs.
Critical thinking skills. qualitative.
● Case study: Women
Complexity, ambiguity, and contradiction. and mental illness.

Relationship between theory and practice. ✎ Intro to life narratives.


● Brief history of life
Subjective / embodied experiences. narratives.
● Review: Life narrative
Intellectual community: and WGST.

“...the intellectual and political challenge of the introductory ✎ Reading autobiography.


● Genre, genre, genre.
course as a kind of laboratory for interdisciplinary work. ● Autobiographical

[...] We hope that this book will inspire you to add materials and subjects.
● Making generalizations.
bring your own interests and concerns to the introduction of
women’s studies” (Grewal & Kaplan, xxii-xxiii). ✎ Postscript: Women’s
creativity.
Narrative based research
A brief (!) history of life narratives in the
social sciences and humanities.

➪ “Why read Proud Shoes in WGST 101?”


History of Western life writing ✎ Research methods in
WGST 101 and beyond.
● “Interdisciplinary”?

✎ AD 397-400: Confessions of Saint Augustine.* ● Quantitative vs.


qualitative.
● Religious narratives prevail for ~1000 years. ● Case study: Women
and mental illness.
✎ 15th-16th centuries: Secular humanist writers.
✎ Intro to life narratives.
✎ 17th century: Enlightenment writers. ● Brief history of life
narratives.
● Stories of scientific inquiry, reason, and order. ● Review: Life narrative
and WGST.
✎ 18th century: The exceptional individual; the
✎ Reading autobiography.
self-made Great Man; the Romantic. ● Genre, genre, genre.
● Autobiographical

✎ 19th century: Bildungsroman; bourgeoisie and subjects.


● Making generalizations.

aristocracy; slave narratives; social critiques...


✎ Postscript: Women’s
* No relation. creativity.
Radical (white, male) individualism!
“I am commencing an undertaking, hitherto
without precedent, and which will never find
an imitator… I am not made like any of those
I have seen; I venture to believe that I am not
made like any of those who are in existence.
If I am not better, at least I am different.”
—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions, 1782.
Life narrative and WGST ✎ Research methods in
WGST 101 and beyond.
● “Interdisciplinary”?
✎ Pre-19th century (rare): Religious narratives; ● Quantitative vs.
qualitative.
private letters; captivity narratives; records of ● Case study: Women

husbands’ achievements (“story of deeds done”). and mental illness.

✎ Early feminists draw from personal experience: ✎ Intro to life narratives.


● Brief history of life
● Mary Wollstonecraft, “A Vindication of the narratives.
● Review: Life
Rights of Women,” 1792. narrative and WGST.
● Seneca Falls, “Declaration of Sentiments and ✎ Reading autobiography.
● Genre, genre, genre.
Resolutions,” 1848. ● Autobiographical

● Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?,” 1851. subjects.


● Making generalizations.

✎ Harriet Ann Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave


✎ Postscript: Women’s
Girl: Written By Herself , 1861. creativity.
Second wave, Womanism, Third World…
Patricia Hill
Maxine Hong- Collins, Black
Betty Friedan, Kingston, The Feminist Thought: Kate Bornstein,
The Feminine Woman Warrior: Audre Lorde, Knowledge, Gender Outlaw:
Mystique, 1963. Memoirs of a Zami: A New Consciousness and On Men, Women,
(→ Founding of Girlhood Among Spelling of My the Politics of and the Rest of Us,
NOW in 1966). Ghosts, 1976. Name, 1982. Empowerment, 1990 1994.

1960 1970 1980 1990 2000

Maya Angelou, Gloria Anzaldúa & Gloria Anzaldúa, Chandra Talpade


I Know Why the Cherríe Moraga, Borderlands/La Mohanty, Ann
Caged Bird Sings, eds., This Bridge Called Frontera: The New Russo, & Lourdes
1969. My Back: Writings by Mestiza, 1987. Torres, eds., Third
Radical Women of World Women and
Color, 1981. the Politics of
Feminism, 1991.
✎ Research methods in
Why share life stories? WGST 101 and beyond.
● “Interdisciplinary”?
● Quantitative vs.
“[N]ot to solve any personal problem. One of the first things we qualitative.
discover in these groups is that personal problems are ● Case study: Women
and mental illness.
political problems. There are no personal solutions at this
time. There is only collective action for a collective solution. ✎ Intro to life narratives.
● Brief history of life
[...] I am getting a gut understanding of everything as narratives.
opposed to the esoteric, intellectual understandings and ● Review: Life
narrative and WGST.
noblesse oblige feelings I had in ‘other people’s’ struggles. [...]
Maybe the answer is not to put down the method of analyzing ✎ Reading autobiography.
● Genre, genre, genre.
from personal experiences in favor of immediate action, but ● Autobiographical
to figure out what can be done to make it work.” subjects.
● Making generalizations.

—Carol Hanisch, “The Personal is Political,” 1969. ✎ Postscript: Women’s


creativity.
Reading autobiography
Some frameworks for analyzing
(auto)biographical life narratives.

➪ “How do I read Proud Shoes in WGST 101?”


✎ Research methods in
What is a life narrative? WGST 101 and beyond.
● “Interdisciplinary”?
● Quantitative vs.
qualitative.
● Case study: Women
and mental illness.

✎ Intro to life narratives.


● Brief history of life
narratives.
● Review: Life narrative
and WGST.

✎ Reading autobiography.
● Genre, genre, genre.
● Autobiographical
subjects.
● Making generalizations.

✎ Postscript: Women’s
creativity.
✎ Research methods in
“60 genres of life writing” WGST 101 and beyond.
● “Interdisciplinary”?
● Quantitative vs.
Academic life writing Bildungsroman Heterobiography Prosopography qualitative.
Addiction narrative Biomythography Jockography Relational life writing ● Case study: Women
Adoption life stories Captivity narrative Journal Scriptotherapy and mental illness.
Apology Case study Letters Self-help narrative
Autie-biography Collaborative life writing Life narrative Self-portrait
Auto/Biography (a/b) Confession Life writing Serial autobiography ✎ Intro to life narratives.
Autobiography in 2nd person Conversion narrative Meditation Slave narrative ● Brief history of life
Autobiography in 3rd person Diary Memoir Spiritual life narrative narratives.
Autoethnography Digital life stories Nobody memoir Sports memoir
● Review: Life narrative
Autofiction Ecobiography Oral history Survivor narrative
Autographics Ethnic life narrative Otobiography Testimonio
and WGST.
Autohagiography Ethnocriticism Perioautography Trauma narrative
Autosomatography/ Filiation narrative Personal essay Travel narrative ✎ Reading autobiography.
autopathography Gastography Poetic autobiography War memoirs ● Genre, genre, genre.
Autothantography Genealogical stories Prison narratives Witnessing (acts of)
● Autobiographical
Autotopography
subjects.
● Making generalizations.
(Sidonie Smith & Julia Watson, Reading Autobiography:
✎ Postscript: Women’s
A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives, 2001). creativity.
How do we read life stories? ✎ Research methods in
WGST 101 and beyond.
● “Interdisciplinary”?
To understand an author’s unique perspective—and ● Quantitative vs.
qualitative.
the significance of their story—we can analyze it ● Case study: Women
and mental illness.
through the lens of…
✎ Intro to life narratives.
✎ Identity: “Who am I?” ● Brief history of life
narratives.
✎ Space: “What is my location and position?” ● Review: Life narrative
and WGST.
✎ Embodiment: “How do I look and feel?”
✎ Reading autobiography.
✎ Agency: “How do I affect my world?” ● Genre, genre, genre.
● Autobiographical
✎ Experience: “What happened to me?” subjects.
● Making generalizations.
✎ Memory: “How do I know?”
✎ Postscript: Women’s
(Smith & Watson, Reading Autobiography, 2001). creativity.
Truth, ethics, and work ✎ Research methods in
WGST 101 and beyond.
● “Interdisciplinary”?

✎ “The autobiographical pact” (Philippe Lejeune). ● Quantitative vs.


qualitative.
✎ Memoir’s “work” (G. Thomas Couser). ● Case study: Women
and mental illness.

“Proud Shoes is not fiction, although in a few instances I took ✎ Intro to life narratives.
● Brief history of life
liberties and drew conclusions which the facts seemed to narratives.
justify. It is an attempt to give a coherent account of my ● Review: Life narrative
and WGST.
forebears, based on tales told to me and facts discovered in my
✎ Reading autobiography.
search of the historical record. [...] Throughout the ● Genre, genre, genre.
narrative, I have tried to distinguish between the facts and the ● Autobiographical
subjects.
legends which could not be substantiated.” ● Making generalizations.

—Pauli Murray, Introduction to Proud Shoes, 1956. ✎ Postscript: Women’s


creativity.
✎ Research methods in
Reading for generalizations WGST 101 and beyond.
● “Interdisciplinary”?
● Quantitative vs.

We “aim to generalize in some sense by claiming qualitative.


● Case study: Women

that an individual story speaks to a broader social and mental illness.

experience or positionality or illuminates a symbolic ✎ Intro to life narratives.


● Brief history of life

framework or a historical event or process.” narratives.


● Review: Life narrative
and WGST.
✎ Sociological; cultural/ethnographic; historical. ✎ Reading autobiography.
✎ What methods can we use to support the claims ● Genre, genre, genre.
● Autobiographical
subjects.
we make about life narratives? ● Making
generalizations.
(Mary Jo Maynes, Jennifer L. Pierce, & Barbara Laslett, Telling Stories: The Use of
Personal Narratives in the Social Sciences and History, 2008). ✎ Postscript: Women’s
creativity.
Free writing exercise
Complete this statement:

“The weirdest thing that’s


ever happened to me is…”
(Write as much as you can without stopping for the next two
minutes. You will not have to share this writing with anyone
else, but you will be asked to discuss it with a peer.)
Free writing exercise
Discuss your response with a peer. Consider:

✎ Do your personal experiences say something


about the social positions, cultures, or time
periods you have lived in? Why or why not?
How could you support your story and/or your
interpretation of it (e.g. documents, photos,
witnesses, historical records, statistics...)?
P.S. Women’s creativity
Dr. Patricia Trujillo reads from Gloria
Anzaldúa, “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to
3rd World Women Writers,” 1979 (published
in This Bridge Called My Back, 1981):
http://bit.ly/2gbZMG1

You might also like