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The Narrative Dispossession of People Living with Dementia: Thinking About the Theory and Method of Narrative

By Clive Baldwin

Abstract

In the beginning …\ud Once upon a time …\ud This is the story of …\ud That’s a good story ….\ud And they all lived ….\ud Let me tell you a story ….\ud Narrative, it seems, is all around us. Bruner (2002) states that we are\ud ‘constantly in the process of making narratives’ (p.3) and that narrative is so\ud much part and parcel of life that ‘human society cannot run without it’. In\ud everyday life we recount stories about ourselves and others and in so doing\ud both represent and construct ourselves. We are the heroes and heroines of our\ud own stories and occasionally of the stories of others. Our experience, lives and\ud Selves are storied. In academia narrative has also found a place not only in the\ud humanities but also the social sciences and even the natural sciences. It would\ud seem there is no escape from participation in the narrative enterprise - it is a\ud way of experiencing, relating, thinking and, ultimately, being in the world.\ud Narrative, as Barthes (1977) said, ‘is simply there, like life itself’ (p.79).\ud To be sure, the development of narrative as a theory and method has\ud brought (or constructed) insights into all manner of things. Narrative, emerging\ud as it did from an interest in the experience of powerlessness (MacKinnon,\ud 1996), was seen as a means of giving voice to those previously at the margins\ud and has effectively, and prolifically, expanded our understanding of what it is\ud like to be marginalised, oppressed, victimised, ignored and silenced. But even\ud as this is so, it is my contention, contra Barthes, that narrative and the process\ud of narration (narrativity) as we currently conceive and operationalise it\ud excludes certain individuals and groups of people, creating people without\ud narrative. These people are those I shall call the ‘narratively dispossessed’. In\ud the first part of this paper I will seek to outline what I mean by this and work\ud towards a tentative definition. In the latter part I will attempt to suggest some\ud ways in which we might try to think about narrative/narrativity somewhat\ud differently so as to narratively ‘re-possess’ these individuals and groups

Topics: R1, BF
Publisher: University of Huddersfield
Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.hud.ac.uk:4907

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