The personal is problematic: Capturing activist biographies and NGO narratives in South India

Baillie Smith, Matt and Jenkins, Katy (2010) The personal is problematic: Capturing activist biographies and NGO narratives in South India. In: AAG Annual Meeting 2010, 18 April 2010, Washington D.C..

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This paper links analysis of biographical accounts of activism and non-elite cosmopolitanism in South India to a consideration of life history methods in the global South. It argues that whilst 'the personal' can be productive in generating critically important data, we cannot assume a shared understanding of the concept between researcher and researched. This leads us to identify a tension between the desire to acknowledge the voice of the 'subaltern' through a biographical approach, and an approach which may lack meaning for those researched, running the risk of reinscribing the power relations the approach seeks to challenge. We explore how a life history perspective provides an opportunity to uncover, and open to analysis, new narratives, experiences, skills and dispositions, as well as patterns of exclusion and marginalisation, that are pivotal to development, but which fall between the twin focal points of elite global networks and grassroots community activism. However, although a biographical approach can generate rich data which unsettles dominant narratives and understandings, it is not unproblematic and demands reflexivity on the part of researcher and researched. We consider how these issues played out in our research and how our biographical approach in some respects ran counter to both our findings and our concern with the subaltern. We particularly explore the unease of those we researched in narrating themselves, and the resultant difficulty of disentangling individual and institutional life histories in our research.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Activism, biography, cosmopolitanism, NGOs, India, methodology
Subjects: L700 Human and Social Geography
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
Depositing User: Becky Skoyles
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2014 13:28
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2019 19:31

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