The Permeable Self: Making Connections through Personal Experience

By Nicolette Macdougall.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

People live storied lives and it is in the telling of those stories that the richness and complexities of those lives emerge. Arthur Frank (1995) notes that a distinctive element of postmodern times is the emergence of people reclaiming the telling of their own stories. Frank’s voice is only one among many in the social sciences raising doubts about privileging any one method of obtaining authoritative knowledge about the social world, and expressing interest in personal narrative and autoethnography as genres for expression in research (Ellis & Bochner 2000). Traditional methods of research writing are often inadequate as a means to express the complexity of social life.

Expressing research as story, including oneself as an actor in the text, provides an alternative way of writing about social life and self-other interactions, potentially an empowering and illuminating experience. This paper unpacks my journey to method; it is an autoethnographic account based on personal experiences, transcribed interviews, journal entries and emails over the course of 2006. My interaction with a number of African refugee women in Perth, Western Australia – participants in my PhD research project, is framed around our mutual understanding of grief, loss and suffering, out of which has arisen empathy, affection and respect. I use story to weave our differences and similarities together to provide an understanding of the connections that emerge between researcher and researched, and the multiple-selves that critical narrative uncovers.

Keywords: Identity, Autoethnography, Critical Narrative, Resistance, Refugees, Africa

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.213-222. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 586.072KB).

Nicolette Macdougall

PhD Candidate, School of Social Science and Humanities, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

I began my PhD at Murdoch University in 2005 and have been interacting with refugee women from Africa during that time. My interest lies in the formation and reformation of social bonds, with a specific focus on friendship and kinship-like relationships, and the multiple nature of selfhood.

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