Listening To The ‘Other’ Through Narrative Inquiry

Year: 2015

Author: Burgess, Cathie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Addressing sensitive and complex issues for early career Aboriginal teachers requires a qualitative research approach that provides the opportunity and space to privilege and respect the voices of those who rarely receive or expect it, and to question and destabilise the structures, power and processes that attempt to silence and deny these voices. Narrative inquiry facilitates these opportunities through culturally familiar ways of yarning and story telling so that participants feel comfortable in articulating their experiences and ideas in a flexible and responsive environment.
The approach taken in my research study based on the construction of four narratives was premised on the understanding that a trust relationship needed to be established with each participant, particularly as a non-Aboriginal person working in an Aboriginal setting and the importance of establishing one’s credentials as a non-Aboriginal person will be explored. Examples of how to welcome each participant to articulate the stories that they wanted to relate, on areas that they felt were most important to them will be shared along with the challenges of protecting privacy in this context.

In order to account for the complex, nuanced and at times contradictory nature of these stories, Foucault’s (1982) constructs of discourse, power and subjectivity provided the theoretical base on which to consider a range of positions not bound by ethnicity, cultural determinism and/or stereotyping. Emphasis on localised and contextualised sites of operation within specific relationships of power created space for discursively produced narratives and counter narratives. How narrative inquiry provided a conduit for these Aboriginal teachers to articulate normative and/or counter narratives of their experiences of early career teaching will be discussed.