Narrative Inquiry

Narrative Inquiry: From right Dr Grace O' Grady Education Dept. Maynooth University, Dr Anne Byrne Head of School of Political Science and Sociology, NUIG, President Philip Nolan, Prof. Jean Clandinin University of Alberta, Dr Hilary Tierney Applied Social Studies, Maynooth University, Prof. Sharon Todd Head of the Education Dept., Maynooth University and Jackie O' Toole IT Sligo.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015 - 00:00


A Field in the Making

The Second Irish Narrative Inquiry Conference took place in Maynooth University Thursday 19th and Friday 20th March 2015. An annual inter-institutional conference, this year’s event was hosted by Maynooth University in conjunction with IT Sligo and the National University of Ireland, Galway. Brought together were a wide range of Irish and international scholars to showcase how narrative is and can be deployed in researching many aspects of Irish society. Presenters included academics, practitioners, educators, social workers, performing artists, narrative therapists, social policy makers and independent researchers.

The conference was formally opened on Thursday 19th March by Professor Philip Nolan, President of Maynooth University who spoke eloquently about the continued importance of intellectual collaboration between the three institutions and of the powerful role narrative and stories play in all our lives. Philip discussed the fundamental argument that narrative is social and the significance of transformation inherent in the telling and re-telling of stories and narratives. While agreeing with Dr Grace O’ Grady who chaired the opening ceremony, that narrative inquiry can be marginalised and contested within the academy, he concluded that anything worth fighting for is thus positioned. Professor Sharon Todd, Head of the Department of Education, Maynooth University then invited the audience to reflect on how narrative is integrated into academic and practitioner theory and research. Sharon observed that we are narrated and narratable selves.

The organisers and delegates were both delighted and privileged to have Dr Jean Clandinin, a world renowned Narrative Inquiry Scholar as keynote speaker. Jean spoke beautifully about how narrative inquiry has moved from the margins and is becoming central in more dominant forms of inquiry.  Drawing from her wide ranging research in Education, Health, Youth and Families, she enthralled the audience with tales of her current research on marginalised children and families in Canada. Jean began with a story of a teacher visiting a child and then as the narrative unfolded drew the audience into an understanding of the twelve touchstones of Narrative Inquiry. Key concerns in narrative inquiry were illustrated including how individual stories are embedded within and shaped by social and cultural narratives and the three dimensional narrative inquiry space, temporality, sociality and place.

Conference presentations and performances took place all day Friday 20th March. An eclectic variety of approaches and deliveries showcased the strengths of narrative inquiry. Thematic areas included Narrative across Culture and Language. Visual Art and Reflective Practice, Women and Health, Symbolic Representation, Adult Education, Concealed Stories, Music, Religion and Politics, Teacher Education, Methodology, Writing Challenges, and Placement Learning. An addition to this year’s conference was the inclusion of three workshops where delegates had an opportunity to immerse themselves in one area and tease out the nuances and stories therein. With over 100 delegates all presentations and performances were well attended and people were left asking for more!

The conference was closed by Dr Jean Clandinin and Dr Anne Byrne. Jean summarised in poetic form all she had heard and experienced during the conference. She encouraged delegates to engage in an active listening activity to delve into how we must listen and hear and allow others to talk and tell. Anne spoke about the necessity of connection and creativity, of the need for crafting narratives and telling stories, of the challenges in representing the voices of others. She left us with feelings of much anticipation for next year’s conference.

A second successful Narrative Inquiry conference concluded with the promise of publication of 2 volumes of material from NI 2014 and NI 2015 and with NUI Galway announced as hosts for NI 2016.

Conference Coordinators (Inter-Institutional)
Grace O’ Grady (Maynooth University)
Anne Byrne (NUIG)
Jacqueline O’ Toole (IT Sligo)
Conference Organisers (Inter-Departmental)
Grace O’ Grady (Education)
Angela Rickard (Education)
Therese Hegarty (Froebel)
Hilary Tierney (Applied Social Studies)
David McCormack (Adult Education)
Eva Lindroos (English)