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  13. Given that I just started to learn about storytelling and dialogic approaches as soon as last semester, this week’s readings helped me to get a better understanding of how this methodology could be useful. In the Introduction, whe she talks about how she got her love for stories from her grandfather (p. 4), it made me think about my grandmother. I was raised by both, my mom and my grandma. Given that my mom had to work, grandma was the only one that was always waiting for me at the door when I arrived home from school. She didn’t use to talk that much when I arrived, but smiled and offered me some food. Having her around while I was growing up was one of the best experiences I can remember. But it was when the house was in silence and everybody was doing any kind of stuff when she used to settle in the front porch and started to sing. And I always knew that that was the storytelling time. I remember that I used to go to her side and ask her about the song she was “performing” in her rocking chair. It was always an old song, and she wasn’t exactly the best singer in the world but the joy she expressed by singing always intrigued me. After telling me about the song, she always continued the conversation with a “chapter” of her life. Sometimes it was a chapter that she had already told me about, but I found fascinated how she expressed her emotions through the storytelling. She never stopped doing it and even when I was getting older, she kept this practice and elaborated it with the themes I guess she felt were according to my age.

    Sadly, my grandma passed away three years ago and even though I miss her terribly and she isn’t anymore with me physically, her stories are still in my heart and memory. Actually, even when I’ve always had a good relationship with my mom, I’ve realized that it has been strengthen in the last 5 years, and I have noticed how she also practices the storytelling in the same way my grandma used to do it. When I’m at home, I often sleep with her just to hear her bedtime’s stories. Some of them are sad, others are funny, but moreover, all of them are important and powerful.

    As we have talked about before, storytelling can be powerfull to people that often have no voice or agency about their own lives. By using biographical interviews, for example, researchers could get rich data, that other type of methods might not be able to reach. Moreover, as she discussed in Chapter one about the role of the interviewers and analysts using biographical interviews (p. 32), as researchers we can perform different roles but we also have to be very aware of how and when to differentiate them. However, I have always struggled with the idea that the research “business” has implemented about how researchers have always to be straight and emotionless even when, in my opinion, that’s not possible. We have to keep the feelings aside in order to be objective, but we are encouraged as well to be reflective. How can one be reflective and objective at the same time? I still have no idea…

  14. Iesha, it is interesting that you wrote about the “lost space” because that is something that stood out to me in the reading. By now we are aware of all of the versatil benefits of storytelling. It can be used for personal healing and celebration to conducting needs assessment and shaping policies. However as with any method it is important to understand the limitation or the harm it can cause. One story has the potential to silence another story. As noted by Bar-On this could be very problematic and defeat the purpose of storytelling. Therefore it is important to ensure that the stories that are getting the “limelight” or those that are being heard are varied. It is crucial that all stories are heard. If only one position is talked about then we miss out on learning which is necessary in moving forward and/or coexisting.

    As highlighted by BAr-On, it is important to understand that in order to have that balance between “told” and “untold” in stories that are being told…I agree with this. But we need to take a step back especially when we are talking about sensitive topics. First and for more all parties must first feel comfortable talking. And I think creating that safe/comfortable space is crucial. But my questions in HOW do we that?

    I think that everything that is going on in Amherst Schools right now is a good example of how complex it is to get all stories.

    The series of events in Amherst are as follows : It all stared when a white students showed frustration for not being able to use the N-word…from there somehow he mentioned having a gun and bringing it to school to deal with the students that have bullied him. And now an African American math teacher has been a target of racial violence. Students have been sending her derogatory messages.*** These messages and events have been so severe that the math teacher has expressed fear for her safety. The school has responded by having community events and other forms. We have heard from various stakeholders and that is goof but the story has not been told by the students that committed such act. All the stories that are being told is “oh this is a bad acts… it sickening” And I agree it is horrible. But in my opinion we can talk about this all we want but can we really move forward from this without knowing the story from those that did it? I think the answer is pretty easy. What is not easy is to find a safe place for the untold story to be told.

    *** please note I am summarizing here.. and being that I went to Amherst High, I have a bias of course. Here is an article that explains the situation in depth: http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/02/amherst_school_officials_conti_1.html

  15. From the introduction of “From tell your life story”, it said that we can know people if they talk about what is going on inside them (p. 8). Dan argued that many people handle their own problem without professional helps. I think he emphasized that there were more important things than just asking help to professionals. Story telling can be the Dan’s or our possible key to overcome hard situations. He said that there is no obvious separation between good and evil today. So, listening to people’s story might be valuable than the theories tell us. I agree with him some part of his decision. Telling my life story to others is sometimes ashamed to me. It is hard to me because if there is not trust relationship between I and others, I cannot tell the truth.

    In chapter 4, there are good discussions to see how to overcome the barriers between Jewish and Palestinian. Some people felt fear when they (Jewish & Palestinian) talk together. I do not perfectly understand their situation but maybe I can feel their struggles. And there is a great finding that sometimes minority group helped dominant group to develop insight into their identity ambivalence and power orientation (p. 124). I think this is absolutely true. Any kinds of attitudes to privileged group can provide atmosphere that makes dominant group feels they are privileged. We cannot control it. This looks natural. I mean this is a fact of life. Just back to this chapter’s significant point, if someone opens his/her mind, it can provide warm mood. However, there should be many struggles for a longtime with many dialogue. I believe that trust relationship cannot be built immediately. It takes time. Sometimes it takes a short time, sometimes it takes forever.

    In chapter 1, I can see that Dan tried to develop theoretical constructs (p. 23). He thought that interviewing is data generation to help developing theoretical constructs. I think that building theoretical constructs have to be achieved for proving his studies. I know that story telling is useful to open people’s mind. But if there are tools and systematic approaches, these are more helpful to be understandable and validate his work to other scholars.

  16. This reading solidified the need for qualitative data! Bar-On’s introduction to the topic immediately grabbed my attention. I think this is important to note, as he did, that storytelling can be a very useful tool. Bar-On’s recount of his past was an excellent example of this, but in and of itself was so powerful–reading about the trauma of immigration, those feelings of physical insecurity and lack of cultural continuity. It was also interesting to be guided through Bar-On’s transformative process and the idea of how being a survivor of man-made trauma was intergenerationally transmitted. The idea of identity, marginalization, and acceptance swirled around in my head throughout this reading.

    The concept of biographical narratives is crucial to research today because, as Alice noted from the readings, it does provide information that could not be gathered through alternate means. However, Bar-On also noted to key points–the need to address power relations in narratives and also the importance of empowering, recovering, and legitimizing stories of the oppressed party while making sure all sides are expressed. I believe the emphasis the author placed on these factors rings true in the form of responsibility on the end of the facilitator–to be aware of conflicts that may arise during the process.

    Additionally, I found the interviewing techniques quite useful. This was reassuring as I work on MPH project to see what I have been told by my Committee Chair mirrored in this text. To start with wide open-ended questions, giving the interviewee the freedom to fully express their personal story. As I conducted interviews (on a much smaller scale)–I found that even open-ended questions can evoke short answers, and there is the need for back-up/sub-questions to clarify or supplement. However, as Bar-On expressed it is imperative that the facilitator ask these open questions in order to elicit an undisturbed narrative with rich data. I wish I had done these readings prior to my narrative interviewing process, but will definitely use them to support my papers moving forward.

  17. As an immigrant, I really loved the part of the introduction that gave an historical account of Bar-On’s experience with the “whirlwind” of movement. As a first-generation immigrant I can so completely relate to that sense of being stuck between places, and they way that Bar-On described it be elaborating on the importance of the collective to his experience was so perfect. I also found that his reflection on the impact of immigration as a result of unpredictable political events was so valuable. He gives the example of his Father questioning his (the author’s) brother about buying a house in Jerusalem despite having lived there for well over three decades. This story expresses what numbers cannot: the fear, uncertainty, impermanence, restlessness, and chaos associated with migration, especially if it is in times of conflict. I think the layout of opening the book with a story was so intriguing, and did a good job in laying the foundation for the entire book. In chapter 1 Bar-On opens with the question “ how do we know that what I was doing was research at all?” In response to his own question he states that he knows that storytelling is indeed research because he is gaining information that could not have been gathered through different “modes of inquiry” (p. 23). The descriptors that he uses for storytelling are perfect, in particular his conceptualization of storytelling as a journey though the ‘ruins of memory’ (p. 23). In discussing the process of storytelling, Bar-On highlights the important truth that the stories that get told are not all of the stories that exist, and the challenge is in eliciting the stories that tend to remain silent. He also gets at some of what we talk about in reference to the process of digital storytelling: that “people who tell their own story thereby repossess it, so that it contributes to their self-esteem” (p. 26); it is reaffirming to see that effect exists as a common end to the process.

    I really appreciated his insight in regards to methodologies. His advice to ensure that the interviewer can remain as passive as possible is to open an interview by asking: “please tell me your life story, starting wherever you would like” (p. 29). Of course, the structure of having the interviewer/researcher in charge of the process means it is impossible for the interviewer to be completely impartial and this is a significant challenge overall, especially with interviewees that may be reluctant to engage or elaborate. The suggestion to prepare both a rubric and a rationale for those situations when interviewees are hesitant to talk is a very useful and practical tip. Thinking through a rationale can help to determine the priorities of a particular project, and as a researcher I think this would be a valuable process to think through. I like what he refers to as the “abductive nature of storytelling and listening” (p. 27), the concept that an interview elicit data, but not in its entirety- that data can be used to discover new concepts and ideas that might not be initially obvious. This framework is useful to keep in mind, and encourages the process of investigating the silences and absences during interviews and observations. The final chapter highlighted for me some of the important aspects of storytelling: that disparate groups can find commonality through storytelling and that tensions between groups can be difficult but also elicit important information. For those moments of conflict I am reminded of how important it is for interviewers to be prepared to handle conflict, particularly when addressing sensitive and volatile topics. Overall I really enjoyed this reading for all of the practical input it provided. I will definitely hold on to it as a reference.

  18. Similar to Molly’s response, I was struck and touched by the way Bar-On discussed analyzing stories for the truths they represent before drawing connections between existing theories as a way of “making sense”. This piece struck close to home for me as the complexity of migration, and history making mirrored in so many ways my own families continued struggle to process their migration(s) as well as their relationships with Israel as both a place and an identity.

    On both sides of my family there is a nominally documented history of transience throughout Eastern Europe; Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, the Czhech Republic and so on. In my mother’s family it bears a similarity to Bar-On’s in that it was out of necessity also in the time leading up to the Holocaust. The way my grandparents talk about their Motherland (imagine this being said in my grandfather’s heavily accented voice) is bitter, mixed and often with disdain. Their love of America and all things American is visible in our families patchwork of identities; their parents never became citizens or spoke English and did things like slaughter chickens in their Brooklyn apartment, whereas my grandparents and mother worked to be as different from “Old World” identities as possible. In reading the introduction in which Bar-On is piecing together his central questions while trying to understand how his own family constructed their own history I was met with a memory of my own, evocative of similar qualities.

    As a child my sisters and I would often ask questions of our aunts and uncles about their lives as kids as well as their parents and so on. We have a very small extended family, mostly due to the fact that in immigrating from Russia many relatives chose not to come to the States, and to make up for this my great aunt and uncle started making up relatives – fictional people who loved us so much but lived out of reach of mail. It was something I believed in as a kid, and a way that they could -without the pain of explaining familial strife and violence in their countries of origin – re-make history, by adding a story of love and making sense of their own feelings in this way.

    Later in the reading when Bar-On talks about the metaphor of analyzing I was again touched by that way of framing storytelling, because of course we use stories to explain the truth that makes the most sense to us. When he asks if this can work in the face of conflict, my thought is that perhaps it is the only thing that ever has, and that by taking storytelling (and storytellers) from parallel places by introducing dialogic methods we are creating a space to acknowledge varying perspectives.

    In thinking about this method and connecting it to our other readings I feel excited to explore the ways dialogic storytelling can become a part of asset-mapping in communities.

  19. What I kept coming back to through all of the chapters by Bar-On, was the importance of context within storytelling. Bar-On begins by providing context for how he came into his work, his journey. I found the following quote to be very powerful, “But as untidy as my data was, it dealt with the complexity of real-life situations, with people who were living in pain and searching for some relief yet were either unable to find it or unable to learn from others who had discovered new ways of coping” (pg. 17). I love how Bar-On talks about the “messiness” of human lives and the importance of capturing all of their story rather than just reducing experiences to numbers and data.

    Another point I found very interesting was Bar-on’s exploitative approach to research. He explains that although there may be existing theories that contribute or relate to the situation, they are put aside until after the data is analyzed to see if any new theories or explanations develop. This, to me, is an important part of allowing the participants to take center stage- I think if we have a research question or a theory to test, it is very likely that assumptions will be made and the project will be swayed.

    As I am working with Alice on a Body Mapping project, there were several points throughout all the chapters that I found very relevant. The methodological process that Bar-On describes was very helpful, especially his description of data generation in groups. Another interesting area was his discussion on ethics.

    In all the chapters, I appreciated Bar-On’s honesty and humility. As Rohina mentioned, the storytelling process is a fragile one, both for the participants and facilitator. Bar-On does a great job of highlighting the sensitivity, flexibility, and self-reflection needed to support such a process.

  20. I enjoyed the readings this week. It was pretty much a documentary through words. Which is sometimes more helpful and descriptive towards understanding someones story. Also, more so with descriptive narratives, it allows for the person who’s story it is to be more in control of how they want it to be portrayed. Unlike with documentaries, it is mainly on the film editors to take footage and to create the story they want to show (not always, but I feel that happens more than it should). I also agree with Iesha’s comment about as Public health professionals, we often feel the need to give a voice to the “voice-less”. It makes me think that #1- not everyone wants their voice to be heard (for whatever reasons); #2- if they do give their voice to tell their story how will it benefit the person; and #3- Would it be more beneficial if the person was to tell their story, for someone to hear their story, or both?

    Within this story particular, I feel that it has never been told, or is not known of. I have heard of German stories, and have heard Jewish stories but I felt that Bar-On’s story gives an insight to a place where not many people know of. At first I thought it was going to be along the lines of “Schindler’s List”, but was a bit surprised and relieved that it wasn’t because I have heard that story and seen the movie numerous times.

    In the Introduction Bar-On says:
    “At some point I had to distance myself from the German atmosphere at home and all its complexities for me. I wanted to become a real Israeli sabra, according to the criteria of that era”.
    I felt that this was vital and pretty much laid the ground-work for the rest of his story. With that statement, my initial thought was that he wanted to create his own identity. Often because of your parents, culture, or even where you may reside your identity is defined for you, not by you. Therefore you are forced to conform to this particular way of living. I feel that this was an extreme act of bravery and courage for him to know what he wanted to be seen as and be willing to separate himself from his loved ones in order to achieve that.

  21. It was interesting to me to read the life story written by Bar-On. It takes the reader into the depth of all up and down which displaced people may encounter. The steps through which the author expresses his personal and professional life story was very impressive. It reminds the reader of what occurred during World War I, particularly in Germany. “But why did they decide to move Palestine?”, says the author (Bar-On, p. 2) is what we may also bear in mind whenever the issue of Israel Palestine conflict is brought up – why Palestine? However, Bar-On’s life story might be a good representing case of injustice and oppression experienced by humankind.

    Given the background knowledge I had from last semester, chapter-1 helped me to further polish my learning. Bar-On elaborates more about storytelling and its application as a research methodology. I liked the way that storytelling is described: “…for every story that sees the light of the story, untold others remain in the shadows, censored and suppressed…” (Bar-On, p. 24). Although the visualization, phrasing and format of storytelling is quite vital to convey some messages but the real story should be sought behind the layer – we witnessed this last semester when impressive stories developed by classmates in our Public Health Communication course. However, Bar-On points out a key point when he talks about the stories of Arab students and Jewish students: He believes that a balance needs to be maintained between “told” and “untold” stories in storytelling (Bar-On). In Arab/Israeli stories, I guess both are supposed to express similar pains and narrative but from two different angles where they are positioned in. So, I wonder whether the storytellers (Arab and Israeli) feel comfortable/safe enough to contextualize the realities of their life in the “told” part of their stories. Do they will, given the unsolved situation exists cross the boundaries, to reflect their daily life as it is in “untold” part of their narratives?

    I realize better now after reading chapter-4 that how difficult and delicate can be the storytelling process. The series of narratives incorporated in this chapter demonstrate that sometimes the storytellers are caught up in very tense circumstances. I believe it has not been easy for both Arab and Jewish students to participate in those settings/sessions when they expressed their narratives. What I came up with while reading the storytelling process was the issue of research ethics. In the light of research ethics, the researcher needs to ensure that subjects (storytellers in here) do not undergo of any harm. For the most part, in above-mentioned process the participants seem to be/might be subject to threaten by the opposite parties. Or maybe there has been a low-profile setting where the sessions were held or the participants were willing to take the risk and indicated their consent to participate. My mind still could not digest this.

  22. I really liked how Bar-On starts by telling his story, his family’s history and how he started to do the research he does. It was interesting to read about his families experience with the Holocaust, living in Palestine, and his lived experiences informs the research that he does. I feel like in Public Health there is often a push to give voice to “voiceless groups”. Bar-On writes about the problem that is created when a story is told. He explains that when one story is told it silences the other story. Bar-On tries to address this problem by creating a space where both stories can be told. Bar-On calls this the “lost space”. In this “lost space” Jewish and Arab students are able to tell their stories and have a dialog. This is very interesting. I often hear about people speaking for or about groups of people. There are often times that people tokenize the experiences of a person in these groups. Bar-On explained that by creating this space for the students to tell their stories and have these conversations the Jewish students family stories excluded the stories and experiences of the Arab at the time.

    Bar-On also writes about what makes a good story good or a bad story bad. I also find this very interesting in the work I do with the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Mass (ARFWM) and even with my work on the Hear Our Stories Ford Foundation Project. ARFWM has a mail out twice a year. In the letter we include a story of a person that we helped pay for their abortion. The stories that have been used in the past are always the most extreme cases. Working on the fund and listening to these people tell their stories are very powerful. All different kind of people with very different circumstances call the ARFWM for funding for their abortions. For some reason the stories that get put into the letters are the ones that people are facing extreme difficultly. I think that says some thing about what people what to hear and what catches people’s attention and emotion rather than telling someone’s story. And what does it mean to hear these stories and put in into a letter asking for donation. What does it mean to tell someone’s story even if you do not use their name? These are questions I often ask myself. I do realize story telling is very powerful but the power should be in the person’s hands.

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