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Narrative and Discursive Research

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The Palgrave Handbook of Psychosocial Studies

Abstract

This chapter provides a description of the employment of narrative and discursive research in psychosocial studies, with a specific focus on the use of psychoanalysis alongside these qualitative research approaches. In describing this work, I identify a set of problems that have developed in this transdisciplinary space and discuss how these have both enriched and challenged the field of psychosocial studies. Firstly, there is the problem of which psychoanalysis to employ in our research practices, with different schools of psychoanalysis leading to different approaches to collecting and analyzing data. Secondly, there are ethical dilemmas that result from employing concepts developed in a clinical context for therapeutic purposes, in a research context for the purposes of producing knowledge. Thirdly, there is the problem of how to ‘pin down’ the slippery concept of the unconscious in a way that is still considered reliable and valid research practice. Fourthly, there is the danger of losing the disruptive power of psychosocial studies, as an emphasis on the social context gives way to a more relational focus. In the second half of the chapter, I describe my own psychosocial approach to an interview extract demonstrating one way of employing psychoanalysis alongside discursive research, and one way of negotiating the problems already described. Central to my approach is the employment of reflexivity to ensure that the researcher is also understood to be a co-constructor of the data, and just as implicated in its analysis as the participant. I conclude by pointing to areas requiring further development, imagining the horizons of narrative and discursive research within psychosocial studies.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Psychoanalysis is not the only theoretical and methodological framework that can be employed alongside narrative and discursive work to make up a psychosocial approach; however, it is the focus of this chapter given the extent to which it has saturated the psychosocial space (Frosh, 2016).

  2. 2.

    While I focus on possible harms to participants in this chapter, Bowker (2011) has written about the benefits of participating in psychosocial interviews for participants, a dimension of research ethics that should not be overlooked.

  3. 3.

    Given space constraints, this example does not do as much grounding in the actual text of the interview as I normally advocate; as such I describe it as a broad sketch rather than an analysis.

  4. 4.

    The amaXhosa is an Nguni ethic group in the Eastern and Western Cape of South Africa who speak isiXhosa, an indigenous language.

  5. 5.

    Interviewer’s words are indicated through square brackets [ ]. Round brackets and full stops indicate a short pause (…).

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Young, L.S. (2022). Narrative and Discursive Research. In: Frosh, S., Vyrgioti, M., Walsh, J. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Psychosocial Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61510-9_27-1

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