More questions and themes of inquiry

A new list of questions and themes of inquiry, raised in discussion of Alice’s and Stephen’s work this evening, can be found here: http://socialsciencecentre.org.uk/groups/social-science-imagination/.

Additional themes that came up before these discussions included the role of ‘secrets’ in social life, as forms of knowledge that have the dual function of bonding and uniting people with, and excluding and dividing people from one another. This moved quickly into discussions of information, power and knowledge, power/knowledge (Foucault’s work), and ‘rules of engagement’. Interesting as well, as there was another discussion about access to resources and to the latest research and thinking on our matters of concern… Another question centred around the concept of ‘social science’. What is the link between the social and the scientific? Is there anything scientific about it, and if so, what? Should there be? How is this situated historically? How do we decide what constitutes a legitimate way of knowing? There seemed interest in exploring both themes at some point…might we also reflect upon them in the context of the SSC?

Some new thoughts on pedagogy from the group, as I remember (reconstruct). Continue exploring autobiographies together, discussing and raising questions. When we’re finished, we will sit down independently and together with these rich ideas, make sense of them, and make choices about what we wish/need to work on in more depth. This may or may not involve entirely common themes. We are working out the relationship between indepedent and collective work. It may well involve people developing their work individually or together and presenting things to the group along the way. We are not yet sure what the next phase of our work will look like, but I had a strong sense that there is confidence we are shaping it as we work. Very exciting. I have no idea if this paper will speak to me in any way at the moment, but I plan to read it and find out.

Other things to consider: access to libraries, resources (work now underway on open access, sharing, suggestions of British Library catalogue and reader’s pass); how we write, how we read, how we create bibliographies…

Thanks to Zoraida, Alice, Annie, Stephen and Vernon for an amazing class. I’m looking forward to having everyone else back soon!

Three notes on personal narratives and accounts

‘People organize and give meaning to their experiences and, thereby, their lives through the storying of experience: we live storied lives. Yet, our stories do not simply represent or reflect some inherent, pre-given, or incontestable meaning that exits. These stories do not, therefore, reflect a reality outside of the social meanings that we draw upon to make sense of our own experiences. Instead, socially mediated language ascribes meaning to our stories, and through language we reify social meaning, reconstituting our own lives, and often dominant social discourse. […] A dynamic process constitutes the way we participate in making sense of our lives. Individuals are active participants in the creation of their stories; however, these stories draw upon available social discourse and thus consist of both subjugated and dominant knowledge. As our lived experiences exist within a field or web of power and knowledge, no story is outside power. No telling or hearing of a story is outside of meaning and, therefore, neutrality is not possible.’ (Catrina Brown, ‘Anti-oppression through a postmodern lens: dismantling the Master’s conceptual tools in discursive social work practice’, Critical Social Work, 13, 1, pp. 45-46)

‘“Auto/biography” disrupts conventional taxonomies of life writing, disputing its divisions of self/other, public/private, and immediacy/memory. Relatedly, “the auto/biographical I” signals the active inquiring presence of sociologists in constructing, rather than discovering, knowledge.’ (Liz Stanley, ‘On auto/biography in sociology’, Sociology, 1993, 27, 1)

‘I would argue autobiography offers the same opportunity for twenty-first century women as well as in previous centuries. Henke continues to say, “Life-writing encourages the author/narrator to reassess the past and to reinterpret the intertextual codes inscribed on personal consciousness by society and culture…(autobiography) is an author attempting to fashion an enabling discourse of testimony and self-revelation, to establish a sense of agency” (Henke xv-xvi). At its core, autobiography is an attempt at agency through self-definition.’ (Tunisia Riley, From the Academy to the Streets: Documenting the Healing Power of Black Feminist Creative Expression, MA thesis, University of South Florida, 2009)

Alternative imaginaries of knowledge

Alan writes that ‘if publics continue to focus on problems of capital rather than lessons from history humanity’s survival is doubtful. On this final point, I think Higher Education should be an aim for all, the focal point of communities. For finding solutions we need to dispense with the notion of academic and vocational, supremacy of the intellectual over the practical.’

I think this is such an important point. I just today finished reading an inspirational piece by Sara Motta (NotesTowardsPrefigurative) about why this is so important…and how it has been possible (from p. 186 especially for anyone especially interested in how social movements and communities construct knowledge and challenge categories of ‘theoretical’ and ‘practical’ knowledge). Thinking more about this in our work and relationships…