Practicing Narrative Inquiry II: Making Meanings Move

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Narrative inquiry provides an opportunity to humanize the human sciences, placing people, meaning, and personal identity at the center of research, inviting the development of reflexive, relational, dialogic, and interpretive methodologies, and drawing attention to the need to focus not only on the actual but also on the possible and the good. In this chapter, we focus on the intellectual, existential, empirical, and pragmatic development of the turn toward narrative. We trace the rise of narrative inquiry as it evolved in the aftermath of the crisis of representation in the social sciences. The chapter synthesizes the changing methodological orientations of qualitative researchers associated with narrative inquiry as well as their ethical commitments. In the second half of the chapter, our focus shifts to the divergent standpoints of small-story and big-story researchers; the differences between narrative analysis and narratives under analysis; and narrative practices that seek to help people form better relationships, overcome oppressive canonical identities, amplify or reclaim moral agency, and cope better with contingencies and difficulties experienced over the life course. We anticipate that narrative inquiry will continue to situate itself within an intermediate zone between art and science, healing and research, self and others, subjectivity and objectivity, and theories and stories.