I’m a researcher, a student, a teaching assistant (and many other things too). In these capacities, I spend a lot of time hearing other people’s stories. In so many multiple ways, they shape my work academically and professionally, as well as the way I see the world. I tell stories of places I have been, people I have worked with and learned from. So, so many stories.
In my research methods class, we have been talking a lot about stories – from the dangers of a single story, the stories we each have and the stories we collect in our capacity as researchers.
As we talk about these things, the questions come more easily than the answers. Who owns these stories? Who tells them? Who hears them? James Dawes wrote a whole book exploring this – and other – questions about stories, and speaking in the context of some of the world’s biggest atrocities:
“‘Isn’t that a sacrilege-to use someone else’s story…?’ Yet what are the consequences of respectful silence? There are so many ways to hurt others when trying to speak for them, so many and so unexpected. But is doing nothing worse than risking something? ‘How else would it get out?’” –James Dawes, ‘That The World May Know’
These questions are just as relevant for the stories of daily life, whatever those stories may hold, and we, as researchers, as people in this world, must engage with them and be sure the stories we tell are not sacrilegious. This is a lesson I can never hear too often.