THE Symposium, held recently at the University, brought together feminist scholarship and narrative research to provide a space to explore some of the opportunities and challenges of using the feminist narrative method of data analysis – the Listening Guide – for critical understanding and making sense of women’s stories and lives.
Chaired by Dr Berenice Golding (University of Huddersfield), it welcomed three keynote speakers, Professor Natasha Mauthner (Newcastle University), a founder of the Listening Guide, alongside Dr Smith and Dr Lockwood and was funded by the British Sociological Association.
A focus on the history, theory and practice of the Listening Guide laid the foundations for Professor Mauthner to open the event in a talk titled The Listening Guide Feminist Method of Narrative Analysis: Second-wave feminism’s identity politics and voice-giving project.
Dr Smith and Dr Lockwood explored a retrospective of feminist narrative research that they have developed together over the past decade.
“Just to say thank you for organising and delivering yesterday’s workshop. I found it very stimulating and useful. There was much food for thought. I feel motivated to explore the ideas and develop my work.”
A wealth of topics and the multi-disciplinary nature of feminist narrative research was highlighted, including research with women seeking asylum, mothers in prison, female entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia, trans-women’s experiences of personal and intimate relationships and domestic abuse.
A roundtable discussion drew the event to a close with an expert panel including Dr Sandra Corlett (Newcastle University).
Central to the success of the Symposium, which welcomed more than 35 delegates, was the launch of two new public sociology exhibitions. The exhibitions were developed by organisers Dr Kate Smith and Dr Kelly Lockwood, drawing on their respective research of women seeking asylum and mothers in prison.
The first exhibition, I Poems: Listening to the stories of women, was created using the Listening Guide, as Dr Smith explains. “I-poems remind us to listen to how a woman speaks of herself within her own story and is a part of the narrative turn in social sciences and feminist approaches to research.
“Through four sequential readings, the Guide was used to explore the stories of women seeking asylum and mothers in prison and to create the I-poems. The exhibition honours and values the stories that women tell, whilst inviting the audience to also consider what ideas might have shaped these stories.”
Drawing on their research with women held in immigration detention facilities and prison, Dr Smith and Dr Lockwood also worked with artists Kani Kamil and Sherko Abbas to create the second exhibition, Everyday Objects of Carceral Spaces.
“We analysed the research data for the everyday objects that women spoke about in relation to their lives in immigration detention or prison,” explained Dr Lockwood. “As visual artists, Kamil and Abbas then used the stories to create the exhibition, inscribing the women’s accounts on to objects.
“The exhibition brings attention to the stories of women in prison or detention, which often go unheard by the broader public or authorities. It also gives space to consider the objects that feature in women’s stories and what they might tell us about the lives and identities of women in carceral spaces. Through this exhibition, it is hoped to advance understandings of confinement, imprisonment and immigration detention in relation to the stories of women,” she added.
“I just wanted to say a big thank you for organising such an amazing event. Your research continues to be fascinating and the exhibition was truly inspiring. There was a real buzz and everyone I spoke to was thoroughly enjoying it.”
The organisers were delighted with the interest in the Symposium, which provided an ideal platform for students and scholars of women’s studies, feminist and narrative researchers, as well as those looking at social policy and sociology. Said Dr Smith: “Feedback from the event confirmed that it not only provided opportunities for networking and discussion, but that it offered a foundation for the development of future ideas and collaboration.”