The dilemma of voice in biographical narratives: confronting complexity in the "unexpected stories" of intercountry adoptees
Goode, E 2017, 'The dilemma of voice in biographical narratives: confronting complexity in the "unexpected stories" of intercountry adoptees', Communication Research and Practice, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 83-98.
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The biographical-narrative interview has been touted as a conduit for ‘giving voice’ to disempowered groups and individuals. On account of this strength, a biographical-narrative approach was chosen for an investigation into the cultural identity constructions of intercountry adoptees in Australia. However, while yielding rich and detailed accounts of participants’ lives, the method also facilitated the telling of ‘unexpected stories’ that did not conform to the researcher’s expectations. This paper reports on these unanticipated findings and the methodological insights they prompted. In light of these insights, the paper argues that doing justice to participants’ voices involves three imperatives: an explicit recognition of the multi-voiced and co-constructed nature of academic storytelling; sustained reflexivity during the analysis and writing of participant narratives; and the pursuance of ‘socially just’ acts of representation. From this perspective, the aim of biographical-narrative research should not be to ‘give voice’, but instead to produce deeper, more complex accounts of phenomena that change for the better those who tell, hear, and interpret biographical narratives.