How Narratives Can ‘Speak’ To Us In Different Ways

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Social scientists in recent years have become increasingly interested in using qualitative research, particularly ‘narrative analysis’; in order to gain a ‘greater understanding of the social world’, the term can be defined by Sarah Earthy as; “an approach to interview data that is concerned with understanding how and why people talk about their lives as a story, that includes issues of identity”. Therefore through storytelling, researchers can gain a better understanding of the individuals life. Wicken’s article exhibits narrative analysis throughout the study, as she examines various viewpoints from numerous students, all of which express alternate experiences of university life, primarily focusing on minorities.

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The methodology used included 31 under-graduate, graduate and faculty members, each of the participants identified as ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual’. Within the paragraph “Keep ‘our city’ normal”, participants addressed the ‘conservative culture’ engrained in the university, stating that not only does it ‘allows but seems to foster offensive homophobia and heterosexist on campus”, with majority of participants being able to recall incidences when behaviours like this occurred on campus. However, although these students remember these negative experiences, the views from the conservative students tend to contradict these claims.

In contrast to the views of the LGBTQ+ community, a quote from ‘Coming Out Week’ is highlighted in the text, to which SWU student Travis Holland ignorantly proclaims his heterosexuality publicly, disregarding the privileged position heterosexuality maintains. This reaffirms the ‘normal’ views within university, further degrading the ‘queer’ community. In contrast, one participant within the study; Lauren, a graduate student of SWU, expresses her views, beliefs, and experiences; she states; that regardless of the ‘offensive comments’, they speak as if “everyone around them shares that view”, as if it’s the ‘natural’ way of thinking. This way of thinking, may be reassuring for most, yet using a counter viewpoint we gain a better insight into the bigger picture. These interviews directly apply to Earthy’s article regarding narrative analysis and homelessness; as the storytelling was defined on two levels; “the individual stories of homelessness and the collective story of homelessness, ” regarding Wickens article, the minorities within SWU were outlining personal stories about homophobic experiences which reflects into the collective story of homophobic attitudes in university. With the method of qualitative research in use, we dispense the notion of ‘absolute truth’, critically assessing these ideas, illuminating the voices of the marginalized.

In conclusion, capturing personal and human dimensions of experience we therefore utilize these in order to help the reader gain a greater sense of a story. Although, SWU was predominantly viewed as a safe and diverse campus yet, through the qualitative study we come to realise this opinion was built by the majority, therefore being an inaccurate representation of the university.

18 March 2020

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