Life Challenge Memory Work: Using Collaborative Autobiography to Understand Ourselves

Judith C. Lapadat, Nancy E. Black, Philip G. Clark, Richard M. Gremm, Lucy W. Karanja, Miss Mieke, Loriann Quinlan


Using memory work, a group of eight adults in a university setting wrote, shared, and theorized memories of life challenges we experienced. In this study, we have adapted and refined memory work as a method, and we model this by presenting and examining a comprehensive case example of memory work. Our memories were of four main types: stories of dangerous events, the unruly body/self, leaving home/returning home, and negotiating social relationships. Processes of writing, performing, witnessing, and theorizing led us to identify ruptures and turning points that revealed ways in which we have been culturally inscribed as well as our agency in integrating social discourses into our identity. Our results point to the value of collaborative autobiography as a route to insight, a way to build community, and a means to democratize research.

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