Another long and involved story

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Pinni-B building, lecture hall 4113, address: Kanslerinrinne 1


Doctoral Programme in Literary Studies/COMS

Narrative themes in the marginalia of the Poverty in the UK survey and in Indian and British family stories of environmental practices. Guest lecture by Professor Ann Phoenix (UCL, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies)


This lecture explores the breadth of possibilities for narrative research by presenting material and analyses from two recent studies conducted as part of the NOVELLA research node (Narratives of Varied Everyday Lives and Linked Approaches).

One study focused on the marginal comments written on the paper questionnaires completed in Peter Townsend's groundbreaking 1967-68 Poverty in the UK survey (PinUK). In the study, we analysed the types of marginalia recorded by the interviewers and research team and found that, in many cases, the marginalia were sufficiently storied to enable narrative analysis. This talk explores the different ways in which the interviewers constructed narrative identities for the research participants and themselves in what they wrote to the senior researchers who were responsible for running the study. Methodologically, the talk helps to illuminate both the importance of narrative analysis for historically grounded social research and why ‘paradata’, fieldnotes and marginalia are gaining currency as research material in the humanities and social sciences.

The other study focuses on the ways in which families with a 12-year old child living in India and the UK understand the meanings of environment in their everyday lives and practices . Their narratives were produced together as families and in individual interviews. They  illuminate how, contrary to how environment is treated in much climate change discourses, environment is inextricably linked with everyday practices that are relational - negotiated within families - and situated in dynamic social, economic and geographic contexts. Narrative analysis helps to show the importance of taking a nuanced and intersectional approach to families in order to provide understandings of how different family members negotiate their environmental understandings and everyday practices and why what Affrica Taylor calls a ‘common-world approach’ is productive.

The lecture first discusses the ways in which narratives are theorised and narrative analysis conducted in the NOVELLA research before examining the narratives produced in the two studies discussed above. Bringing these different types of narrative material together illustrates the utility of narrative approaches for producing understandings of the everyday in social science (and, although this is not the focus of this talk, of the significance of reading practices in the humanities).

The lecture is open to all interested, welcome!

Additional information

Professor Sari Kivistö, tel. +358 50 318 1246