Identities: gender and ethnicity Identity as story
Life stories• On and off, Ive been very near a twelvemonth in the streets. Before that, I had to take care of a baby for my aunt. No, it wasnt heavy – it was only twelve months old; but I minded it for ever such a time – till it could walk. It was a very nice little baby, not a very pretty one; but if I touched it under the chin, it would laugh. Before I had the baby, I used to help mother, who was in the fur trade; and if there was any slits in the fur, Id sew them up. My mother learned me to needlework and to knit when I was about five…• (Quoted in Davin, 1996, p. 158)
Life stories• I wasnt a stranger to impairments because it had been born into my family, both my father and brother had impairments. Actually, my consciousness was from a very early age of really having to fight other peoples voyeurism and curiosity. Me and my other brother used to pile in the noddy car with Andrew and we used to drive around. But when people used to stare at us when we went out together I used to say ‘What do you think you are staring at?’ Even as a kid I was on one level challenging peoples behaviour towards disabled people even though I wasnt a disabled person at that time.• (Quoted in Campbell and Oliver, 1996, p. 36)
a sense of self-identity is often securelyenough held to weather major tensions ortransitions in the social environments withinwhich the person moves’.(Giddens, 1991, p. 55).
… your own culture, your own language, your owncommunality which you shared with your forebears – isactually shaping the future, too. Its people without asense of the past who are alienated and rootless, andtheyre losers; they lose out.To make any political statement you first of all have toknow who and what you are; what shaped your life,what is possible and what isnt. Thats not nostalgia.Thats a kind of grappling with the past – an ache for it,perhaps sometimes a contempt for it. But the pastcommingles with everything you do and everything youproject forward.(Quoted in Fuller, 1993, p. 23)
Mother: Do you remember being on this beach?Paul: yuk, no.Mother: dont you, when we went to Jersey, onthe aeroplane, do you not remember that?Paul: is that Jersey?Mother: mm, look Rebeccas wearing a hat thatsays Jersey on itPaul: look, what is that?Mother: […] probably a book – we were going togo on that boat or a trip down the river and wetook one or two books to keep you twooccupied.(Middleton and Edwards, 1990, p. 40)
Marjorie: After 20 years we changed over,and it was Sister ‘Smith’Godfrey: Was she on the childrens ward?Marjorie: She was on F2. And then we had‘Moffat’. She was on Fl. She died in the endGodfrey: She was a wicked old devil, she was!No wonder she died!Marjorie: Old devil?Godfrey: Yes!Marjorie: Youre telling me! And Smith!(Atkinson, 1997, p. 65)
Summary so far …• Giving attention to memories means sharing and recognising aspects of each others lives and perhaps acknowledging and understanding differences in experience.• Memories help to make public accounts which enlighten and serve to raise awareness of hidden or stigmatised experience.• Encouraging people to talk about the past can be a way of helping them to manage change in their lives and establish identity in the present.
Life story workWhile you are listening, note down:some of the things Jamie mentions collecting for hislife story booksome of the feelings and emotions he and Sarahmention while they were making the book.
Life story work can increase a childs sense of self-esteem, because, sadly, at the back of the minds ofnearly all children separated from their families oforigin is the thought that they are worthless andunlovable. They blame themselves for the actionsof adults.(Ryan and Walker, 1999, p. 6)
Make notes about some of the basicprinciples they advocate as essentialfor this workhow many of these principles wouldyou say apply only to work withchildren and young people?
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
These Twelve Steps contain the followingproblematic terms and phrases:admitted, powerless, lives had becomeunimaginable, restore, sanity, will, lives,care of God, as we understand him,searching, fearless, moral inventory,admitted to God, exact nature, wrongs,entirely ready, remove, defects of character,humbly, shortcomings, persons we hadharmed, make amends, injure, personalinventory, wrong, prayer, meditation,conscious contact, pray, knowledge of hiswill for us, power to carry that out, spiritualawakening, carry this message, practicethese principles in all our affairs.(Denzin1987: 45)