Narrative Matters Panel

Calling all rebel researchers and naughty narrativists! The time has come for telling your subversive stories…

The abstract for the panel currently reads like this:

We all live storied lives. The stories that we tell, and are told of us, not only
describe the world in which we live, but they help to create it, for they shape
each and every aspect of our lives from our daily routines and rituals to our
hopes, dreams and fears. In each family, each community, each culture, and all
the many and various in-groups within them, certain storylines will be made
available and privileged whilst others will be denigrated or denied. Storylines
can be enabling and empowering, but too often exert a constraining and
restraining influence on lives. Dominant storylines tend to reinforce the views
of those in power, and reflect their gender, age, class, race and political or
religious persuasion, marginalising those who cannot or will not conform. The
limited number and nature of storylines available to those at the margins means
that very often they must work with and around the storylines available to
them, by turn recasting them, repositioning them, reworking them and often
subverting them so that they become sites of resistance. Explorations of this
process are especially rich and powerful in feminist thinking and it is upon
this foundation that we present a range of subversive stories with the power to
challenge the status quo and disrupt received wisdom (e.g. binaries). The panel
will draw on domestic, national, professional, ethnic, religious and linguistic
identities to demonstrate the ways in which subverting dominant storylines can
not only liberate individuals and groups from their ‘prisons of received
identities and discourses of exclusion’ (Best & Kellner 1991: 57), but make
new storylines available for those similarly marginalised.

Narrative Matters is a conference focused very much on the power and practice of narrative and given the colourful and characterful nature of our Doctoral Community we should be able to present a rich and diverse range of stories in Paris! In addition to the panel abstract we need to submit short individual abstracts for each story (100 words each), so it would be helpful if you could start writing and posting those abstracts below.



  • Richard Fay

    This is great to hear Mira. Need any feedback on the Abstract you are submitting?

  • Mira Bekar
    1. yes
    2. yes
    3. No. I would like to present an individual paper (not as part of the panel) since I feel my topic doesn’t fit well with the subversive idea.
    Let’s hope I get accepted so I’ll have the chance to meet you all in person.

  • Richard Fay

    So, as the deadline fast approaches (Tue 15/11, let me take stock of what I know about: a) intention to come to Paris; b) to present a paper; and c) to make a Panel contribution. Please correct me wherever necessary. Re c) Tanya and I will be making this submission so you only have to worry about submitting your own paper. To do this, you will need to create your Guest on-line identity with NM2012/ American University of Paris.

    Magdalena De Stefani:
    a) yes
    b) yes – details?
    c) yes – unless you asap indicate otherwise, T and I will craft the final Panel submission making use of what you have included here. This submission will speak of contributions rather than papers and will provide brief (hopefully not constraining) descriptions of what the contributions are likely to be, hence our need to craft a submission using what you provide us with.

    Leah Davcheva and Richard Fay
    a) yes, Richard for sure
    b) yes.
    c) yes, via Richard for sure but hopefully Leah also.

    Magda Rostron
    a) yes
    b) yes
    c) no

    Eljee Javier
    a) yes
    b) yes
    c) yes

    Lou Harvey
    a) yes
    b) yes
    c) yes – Lou has recently come up with this idea as her contribution: “My panel contribution illustrates a subversive storyline of national identity, as exemplified by Dmitry, an English-language learner from Russia. Having grown up during the dissolution of the USSR and the creation of the Russian Federation, Dmitry has become increasingly aware of Russia’s re-storying of itself as a strong and self-sufficient nation, which he perceives as deliberately isolating itself from the rest of the world. His story reveals how he has subverted this dominant storyline by re-storying his own Russian identity as that of a European, connected through English to continental Europe and the UK. ”

    Elena Gomez Parra and Richard Fay
    a) yes
    b) yes
    c) no

    I do not a clear sense of whether or not any of our other colleagues may come, eg Hiromi Furusawa, Mira Bekar, Clare Lennie …. [addition: Hiromi confirms that, reluctantly, she will not be joining is in Paris 🙁

    If I have missed anyone as I assemble this jigsaw, my apologies 🙁

    Tanya and myself will act as the convenors of the Panel and I will additionally partly represent Leah Davcheva and myself with our panel contribution. We will be giving a separate paper as well on the Ldino project. Tanya will be givng ger own paper and will have up her sleeve as necessary subverting storylines vis-a-vis her Yemeni women’s stories.

    Viv (Xiaoei Zhou)
    a) yes
    b) yes
    c) yes

    Sophia Kariotaki
    a) yes
    b) yes
    c) no

  • Richard Fay

    Last but hopefully not least, here is the draft text from Leah and myself:

    Our contribution to this Panel flows out of our ongoing collaborative narrative research wth elderly and middle-aged Bulgarian Sephardim regarding their linguistic identity play (vis-a-vis Ladino). It illustrates the subversive storylines theme as applied to the zone of national vs ethnic minority identity play. In brief, at the end of WWII, Jews in Bulgaria essnetilaly had two choices: to emigrate (to Israel) or to integrate into Bulgarian society with its ‘socialist’ and Bulgarian-Bulgarian majority constructions of collective identity. Our storytellers stayed in Bulgaria rather than emigrate and their stories do reflect the dominant / available stortline of integration, of becoming and being Bulgarian-Bulgarian but their narration also reveals points at which they understand their lives in terms of the additional storyline of being Jewish in Bulgaria. In our contribution to the Panel discussion, we will present this site of subverting storylines and exemplify it with examples from their stories.

  • Big Yes! to Narrative Matters, and this is the individual paper abstract I’ve come up with:

    Where fiction becomes reality: A narrative of language learning motivation

    This paper draws on data from my PhD, a narrative study of eight UK-based university students’ motivation for learning English. I will focus on the narrative of one student, Emma, to illustrate how her motivation was shaped by her perception of a shift in the English language from ‘fictional’, in her home country of Italy, to ‘real’, when she came to the UK. Drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogism (1981, 1986), which conceptualises dialogue as the essence of language in its relation between utterance and response, I posit that language learning is located in social interaction, in which learners have agency in shaping the communication process and author their own voices by responding to the voices in the world around them. Bakhtin’s conception of the author is of a narrative consciousness, entering into active dialogue with the specific others of whom and with whom they speak, creating narrative in a multi-voiced process of meaning-making. I thus suggest that Emma’s language learning story represents a move from understanding English as a monologic subject to be studied and lacking communicative context, to dialogic, requiring agentive response to and engagement with other voices; engagement through which Emma is constantly re-storying her identity as a language learner. I argue that this view represents an important move in language learning motivation research; whereas the aim of much past research has been to uncover generalisable rules to explain how context affects motivation, a narrative approach can illuminate ways in which motivation may be socially negotiated and constructed.

    I’m also in need of some feedback on a nascent idea for the panel…

    I’ve been chewing over this subversive storylines idea for weeks, trying to identify some way in which my participants are subverting dominant storylines. Unable to come up with anything, I decided to change tack and try instead to identify ways in/times at which they were at the margins. There was nothing immediately obvious in their home contexts; they are all from reasonably privileged and comfortable backgrounds, in various countries, who have encountered little significant resistance to or difficulty in their chosen language learning trajectories. Furthermore, from my data so far it seems they all accept, even embrace, the identity of a global English speaker creating opportunities for themselves in the world through English. However, almost all of them felt very intimidated when they first came to the UK, realising that their language competence was not what they thought it was and their language confidence plummeting as a result. I then saw that, in their home contexts, they had narrated themselves as highly competent and confident English speakers and had made career choices according to this storyline; this self-created storyline then became (self-)marginalised when they came to the UK and found it very difficult to understand people or (to varying degrees) muster confidence to speak. For almost all my participants, coming to the UK was a disruption of their narratives. SO, my question is: can they be said to be subverting their own narratives, by a) re-storying themselves as struggling learners with ‘problems’ and ‘barriers’, then b) re-storying themselves as competent and confident English users in their international, rather than only their national, context?

    Or does this just sound like a stream of desperate babble?!

  • Tanya Halldórsdóttir

    Hi Viv and Eljee,
    Great to have you on board – the Fredericton Gang back together – and in Paris!
    Although we do have to submit formal abstracts for each contributor to the panel, remember that on the day we are hoping to create a more informal, interactive presentation of our ideas in-the-round so to speak, inject an element of perfomance!


  • Hi, I hope it’s not too late for me to catch up! The idea of “subversive stories” does appeal to me and addresses what I intended to achieve through my PhD: using a “small-culture” approach to explore the academic acculturation experiences of students from China as a counter-narrative to the default “large-culture” depictions of them …

    Here are my responses to Richard’s questions:

    1. Yes, I intend to attend NM2012 in Paris. This is very exciting.

    2. Regarding the individual paper, I’m thinking about the implications of narrative inquiry for acculturation research. Broadly speaking, acculturation refers to a (second) culture learning process, where individuals are likely to experience mood fluctuations and changes in the way they deal with cultural difference. Narratives offer participants a chance to talk about what they themselves find meaningful. Telling and re-telling (over time) enables them to make sense of the “same” events as they accumulate richer experience, which powerfully reflect their culture learning process. In my individual paper, I intend to draw the connections between narrative inquiry and acculturation and use my doctoral study as a case study. I see this idea in line with the following themes of the conference: a) How can the narrative concept help us to better understand experience, interpretation and action? b) How is identity storied, restoried, even de-storied across the lifespan? Just a broad idea. I will put up a more detailed abstract soon.

    3. My thoughts for the panel:

    ‘Quiet’ learners? – Subversive stories about ‘Chinese students’

    In international education, a typical depiction of students from China is that they are ‘reticent’ and ‘reluctant to engage with knowledge critically’. Depictions like this tend to be developed around Western-ethnocentric storylines regarding what ‘appropriate’ learning practice is. They define the experiences of these students and provide little space for their own stories to be heard. This paper presents the storied experiences of six postgraduates from China who studied in England, as an attempt to illustrate the complexities in their study-abroad lives and thus subvert the ‘default’ storylines about ‘Chinese students’.

    How does the above sound?

  • Eljee Javier

    Hi everyone,

    I’m a bit late with my thinking but I’ve had the light go on last week. And so here are my thoughts on NM 2012 Panel.

    Narrative Matters 2012 – Panel Abstract Contribution
    My PhD research examines the stories of visible ethnic minorities who are native speakers of English and their experiences of being recognised as English language teachers. These site of resistance are played out against the backdrop of native speaker / non-native speaker dichotomy, a firmly entrenched hierarchy that affects how teachers are perceived and valued. The stories of two English language teachers present how they have storied, de-storied and re-storied their native speaker identity as they emigrate from former British colonies to work and reside in England. Their stories reveal how they have subverted the widely held notion of native speaker by reconstructing their linguistic identity in response to the resistance they have encountered when striving to be recognised as a ‘legitimate’ English language professional.

    Under 100 words, yes, but not quite articulate enough. At least I’ll have data to present this time! 🙂

  • Magda Rostron

    Re: panel contribution, my story has turned out to be self-subversive, or, in other words, at a certain, rather memorable, moment a few years ago, it started subverting my own thinking on teaching and on my role as a teacher in a very particular cultural setting, while at the same time subverting students’ expectations as to that role, too.

    That’s the gist of it, anyway.


  • Tanya Halldórsdóttir

    Hi Magda,

    I think your ‘sharing stories’ idea for a paper would appeal to a Narrative Matters audience, particularly if you can present specific epiphanies and maybe chart the development of your narrative stance through such epiphanies?

    Could you elaborate a little more on your potential panel contribution? Are you subverting stereotypes (whose?) expectations (whose and of what?) or established professional practices (whose?) in these educational institutions?


  • Magda Rostron

    I should have said, “…how I became a subversive teacher as opposed to an indifferent instructor…” 🙂


  • Magda Rostron

    Dear Fellow Narrators,

    My narrative-related thinking is very fuzzy at this point although I am tempted and inspired and would love to participate in the Paris conference. I am not quite sure yet what stories I could comfortably share and how far-reaching their subversiveness is – or rather, how far-reaching into the future their subversiveness is when considered in the local context.

    Still, my initial idea goes along the lines of teaching/learning “quid pro quo”, or stories traded, stories shared, identities revealed, intentions exposed, issues comprehended, as a result of my encounters with Muslim Qatari students – e.g. I tell them a story of my own and they reciprocate, having thus gained trust and understanding of some issue related to the stories. This is very much a part of my general ethnographic approach as it allows me to gain deeper insight into my students’ background and/or thinking. It’s also incredibly rewarding on a much more profound, personal, even emotional, level.

    I would like to turn this particular classroom ‘narrative practice’ into a paper. As for the panel contribution, I could share a personal/professional story of how I became a ‘teacher’ as opposed to ‘instructor’… – based on my work at Qatar University and then, Qatar Foundation.

    Would any of that work? I feel I’m groping in the dark here a bit… Sorry, Tanya!


  • Tanya Halldórsdóttir

    The important thing is to have captured the idea! Because we are not planning a formal panel made up of sequential papers, we could afford to be a little more relaxed perhaps in our descriptions of the stories we are going to tell. Let’s see who wants to participate and what kind of stories we will have to play with…

  • Magdalena De Stefani

    Thanks Tanya 🙂 I’m not sure the abstract captures how interesting the story is – I think I’d need more than 100 words! But we can polish it later I suppose…

  • Tanya Halldórsdóttir

    Thanks for getting the ball rolling Magdalena – I’m really looking forward to hearing more about this!

  • Magdalena De Stefani

    I’d love to have a paper too but I’ll start with the rough ideas for the panel contribution. How does this sound?

    Storylines of female roles in Uruguay: Whose storyline am I subverting?

    My grandmother subverted the storylines available to her and qualified as a neuro-psychiatrist in Uruguay in the early 1940s, making the academic, professional worlds almost obvious paths for other women in the family. Despite this and the strength of her character, her daughter (my mother) put aside a brilliant academic career and devoted her life to her family. In this paper I reflect on the influence of these two storylines on the construction of my identity as a mother, wife and professional, and the ways in which I have subverted them.

  • Richard Fay

    Many thanks Tanya. This looks spot on (note: we will need to ensure that we make the connection with the conference themes fully explicit when we submit this idea and the contributions within it).

    So, everyone, as the time remaining before the Nov 15th submission deadline is now becoming tight, there are the following things to be thinking about and then posting your conclusions and ideas in development:

    1. Do you intend coming to NM2012 in Paris?

    2. If so, what individual paper will you give? (I am suggesting that everyone should submit an individual paper separate from this Subversive Storylines Panel and should in advance of submission share the draft for this)

    3. Can you see a contribution – perhaps not a formal paoper but a shorter intervention – by yourself forming part of the subversive storylines panel idea? If so, can you sketch it out here please ….

    Time is of the essence now 🙂