A new third edition of this book is coming in the summer 2021
Presenting the landmark Pioneers life stories project, this one-of-a-kind book documents how modern social research in the UK was shaped.
It sheds new light on the lives, methods and motivations of men and women who helped develop a new world of research methodology, pioneered feminist research, and first confronted the issues of race and ethnicity.
Graham Crow from University of Edinburgh said, “Every research method starts out with a pioneering investigator, and the inspirational stories of the mould-breaking social scientists told here are full of curiosity, controversy, resourcefulness, ingenuity, imagination and dedication.”
This book combines a fascinating history of the generations who built outstanding and influential social research with a valuable resource for future research and teaching on methods.
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This website was active between 2012 and 2019.
It has been resting since then.
But plans to take a face lift and return in the summer of 2021.
Thanks for your patience.
In this short interview, Ken Plummer tells a little about his new book.
Q: Why did you write Narrative Power?
Narrative has become a contemporary buzzword: everybody’s talking about it. There’s now a vast amount of writing by academics in all kinds of different disciplines from literature and the humanities, through linguistics and philosophy and onto history and psychology. Narrative is a hot topic. So why would I want to add to this?
Well I’ve been writing about stories in different ways, largely in the field of Critical Sexualities Studies, since the mid 1970s: and I also feel personally the importance of storytelling in life. Stories of my ‘coming out’ experiences when I was young. Stories that of my illness experiences when I had transplant surgery. And stories that have been central to my entire research career. I see understanding stories, narratives and documents of life that people produce to be very central tools of social research. But one focus is often somewhat missing. And that is the broad political social and historical role that narrative has played throughout human time. Most writings focus on texts, but this new book is a serious attempt to put the texts in their deep social context. It is an attempt to build a sociology of storie
So to answer the question. I’ve added yet one more book to the field of narrative studies to hopefully give us who work in the narrative field a stronger and firmer focus on the social role stories and particularly the political one. There are actually relatively few books that try to do this
Q: So what are its central arguments?
My central claim is that we live in a narrative reality where stories shape power and power shapes story. There is a perpetual dialogue between power and storytelling. More: we could say that good stories can help shape a human life for the better; but if they are bad they can also help a life fail. So I am suggesting that the stories we tell really matter. Both in life and politics. As many have said before, we have to be careful of the tales we tell, for tales may come true. There can be narrative self-fulfilling prophecies: our stories have consequences. We can see this right now with the rise of Trump, Brexit, the environmental crisis, the populist movements and on and on. Just listen to the stories that are now being told. Where on earth will they take us?
Human beings have, of course, always lived with stories: it is one thing that defines our humanity. And it may be that right now we are entering one of those moments of significant change: of narrative crisis. In my book Narrative Power,I discuss a number of potential tensions that are shaping our narrative realities today. For example, I discuss narrative inequality in a time of well documented increasing inequalities and exclusion. Many voices, most of our seven and a half billion voices, are not heard much in the world. Dominant voices, as always, shape the key stories of our time. Yet there are a range of responses to this and I look at how both social media and social movements are bringing new stories to the fore.
A second major crisis is the Techno crisis, both of digitalism and artificial intelligence. These may well bring huge benefits to us: but they also bring great dangers. We are literally entering a world of new forms of risky storytelling which we don’t understand, and which often bring dehumanising problems: abuse, surveillance, corruption, narcissistic individualism. The book raises the question of how power is shaping new forms of digitalism and the new forms of storytelling they bring with them. We are only just on the cusp of trying to understand the risks they bring.
And then we have the crisis of the narrative and performative state. States are bound up deeply with the telling of democratic, authoritarian or cosmopolitan stories. Partly through the new digitalism, partly through the new populist movements and partly through the fragility and complexity of states worldwide as they enter a new phase of neoliberal disorder, new narratives are being forged.
More than this there is always a problem of narrative truth. The recent concern with ‘fake news’ is hardly new. What is needed is a grounded and rounded approach to the complicated matters of truth and wisdom. The one thing truth never can be is simple! It is always a dialogic struggle of many elements. It has to b really worked for, never simply given. Scientific truth may be the key but there are also always matters of aesthetics, ethics, pragmatics – and indeed politics- that need taking into account too.
These are clearly really very big questions for a very short book.
Q: So this is an academic book, not a trade or popular one. What would you like the readership to be?
A lot of people are interested in narratives right now. So I am hopeful it will find a home gradually on narrative courses especially and amongst graduate students and researchers who are working on narrative. The book is an exercise in framing dilemmas through suggestive examples. It is a provocation to take new paths forwards. So it is in part a book of social theory, in part a book on method, in part a book on politics, and in part a book on the sociology of stories.
It is a book on social theory in that it trying to chart out the political relations of narratives: of how stories shape power and power shapes stories. But it is also very much a book on methodology. I don’t mean here the kind of checklist methodology that you can find on research courses. I have never been keen on this and I do not want to add to the fetishization of methodology. But I do think documents and narratives are the bread-and-butter of doing most forms of research. And thinking about how they are socially shaped is crucial
THE WAY IT IS
by William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread
This is the 12th anniversary of my liver transplant.
I have now lived some 4, 380 days more than I would have done at any other time in history.
In the midst of dark times, it is important to remember donors, partners, friends, professionals who save lives.
And enable us to hold on to the thread….
12th Anniversary of Liver Transplant
Click on tab above for some of my stories
Click on Transplant above for some of my stories
Now Twenty Years Old, the 20th Anniversary Edition depicts the enormous range and success of a growing field of research, activism and policy. Its is marvellous issue, bursting with state of the art essays from many on its editorial board. It is a must read for sexualities scholars. In a very dark world right now, it does suggest there is some hope!
Well done! Take a look at:
by James Henry
Another and another and another
And still another sunset and sunrise,
The same yet different, different yet the same,
Seen by me now in my declining years
As in my early childhood, youth and manhood;
And by my parents and my parents’ parents,
And by the parents of my parents’ parents,
And by their parents counted back for ever,
Seen, all their lives long, even as now by me;
And by my children and my children’s children
And by the children of my children’s children
And by their children counted on for ever
Still to be seen as even now seen by me;
Clear and bright sometimes, sometimes dark and clouded
But still the same sunsetting and sunrise;
The same for ever to the never ending
Line of observers, to the same observer
Through all the changes of his life the same:
Sunsetting and sunrising and sunsetting,
And then again sunrising and sunsetting,
Sunrising and sunsetting evermore.
edited by Gerard Delanty
has just been published.
It contains some 50 wide ranging original essays. I have a small contribution on