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Polly’s story: Using structural narrative analysis to understand a trans migration journey

Ahmed, A and Rogers, M (2016) Polly’s story: Using structural narrative analysis to understand a trans migration journey. Qualitative Social Work, 16 (2). pp. 224-239. ISSN 1473-3250

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Abstract

© The Author(s) 2016. There is scant theoretical and empirical research on experiences of trans1 and its significance for social work practice. In this paper, we premise that research on trans identity and practice needs to be located in particular temporal, cultural, spatial/geographical contexts and argue that a structural narrative analytical approach centring on plot, offers the opportunity to unravel the ‘how’ and ‘why’ stories are told. We posit that attending to narrative structure facilitates a deeper understanding of trans people’s situated, lived experiences than thematic narrative analysis alone, since people organise their narratives according to a culturally available repertoire including plots. The paper focuses on the life and narrative of Polly, a male-to-female trans woman, and her gender migration journey using the plot typology ‘the Quest’. We are cognisant of the limitations to structural narrative analysis and Western conventions of storytelling, and acknowledge that our approach is subjective; however, we argue that knowledge itself is contextual and perspective ridden, shaped by researchers and participants. Our position holds that narratives are not – and cannot – be separated from the context in which they are told, and importantly the resources used to tell them, and that analysing narrative structure can contextualise individual unique biographies and give voice to less heard communities.

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