Seminar 4

Critical perspectives on feminist narrative research

Wednesday 20th April, 2016: 13.00 – 15.30
Venue: Room 7138, Stoddart Building, Sheffield Hallam University

Dr. Jo Woodiwiss, Huddersfield University
Critical perspectives on feminist narrative research: opportunities and challenges

Dr. Cinnamon Bennett, Sheffield Hallam University
Dr. Lisa Buckner, University of Leeds
Critical perspectives on mixed methods and feminist questions

Discussant: Dr. Laura Kilby, Sheffield Hallam University

Abstracts and Resources

Critical perspectives on feminist narrative research: opportunities and challenges
Dr. Jo Woodiwiss, Huddersfield University (

In this paper I will use the idea of narrative frameworks and dominant narratives to explore how and why some stories might be told and indeed heard and why others are silenced or remain unheard. I argue for the need to go beyond the story as told to explore how and why we come to tell particular stories – often in the context of limited alternatives. Women, and women stories, have a long history of being silenced within both academia and popular culture. However, whilst it remains important to value and respect women’s voices, it does not follow that we should simply accept the stories they tell without exploring the contexts and limitations of those tellings. I identify some of the particular challenges for feminists in interrogating the stories told by women but also stress the importance of continuing to do so. I will draw on my own research on women’s engagement with narratives of childhood sexual abuse to explore how and why women might draw on such a narrative framework. This is a narrative framework which directs (particularly but not only) women to construct themselves as damaged and responsible for their own unhappiness, often with no concrete memories on which to base their stories, but which fails to acknowledge the material conditions of their lives. In identifying some of the limitations of (telling) particular contemporary narratives this paper might also serve as a cautionary tale of the dangers of contemporary damage stories.

Presentation Recording

Critical perspectives on mixed methods and feminist questions
Dr. Cinnamon Bennett, Sheffield Hallam University (
Dr. Lisa Buckner, University of Leeds (

This presentation represents the meeting of minds – that of a self-confessed empiricist and a feminist hung up on the production of gendered knowledge. The topic which unites us: women and science.  One of us is interested in the socio-psycho-structural determinants of women’s position in this labour market, and the other in the numbers.  The challenge, which we will discuss here, is how to achieve a mixed methods approach which satisfies our philosophical differences. The evidence of young women entering university science disciplines is encouraging, particularly in biological and medical areas of study, however segregation in academia and the labour market remains significant.  The gender ‘pipe line’ (Berryman 1983) is one of the most dominant metaphors used to explain women’s progress into science jobs and then careers. It compares this to a narrowing bore as the proportion of women progressing to senior positions ebb away, with points of leakage coinciding with motherhood and exacerbated by workplace cultures moulded on traditionally masculine patterns of working (long hours, presenteeism). We chose a different starting point – asking instead, where have all the female science graduates gone? Hoping this would shed light on ‘why?’ we will discuss a quantitative analysis of the Labour Force Survey data which reveals some surprising answers, and outline how to marry our empirical approach with a future qualitative enquiry.

Presentation Recording

Panel Discussion Recording

Discussant Dr. Laura Kilby, Sheffield Hallam University (


Jo Woodiwiss is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Huddersfield and leads the Critical Narrative Research Group. Jo’s doctoral research (Stories to Live by, Selves to Live with, 2005) explored adult women’s engagement with narratives of childhood sexual abuse. As a feminist, she is particularly interested in exploring the possibilities and limitations of contemporary ‘damage narratives’ for understanding, narrating and improving women’s lives. She has written and presented widely in the field of women’s narratives, particularly around abuse, sexuality, self-identity and recovered memories, and is the author of Contesting Stories of Childhood Sexual Abuse (Palgrave 2009).  Her forthcoming edited collection (with Kate Smith and Kelly Lockwood) Feminist Narrative Research: Opportunities and Challenges is due out later this year with PalgraveMacmillan.

Cinnamon Bennett has worked as an academic and a policy maker, both with a focus on gender equality. As a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, Cinnamon’s teaching includes feminist and social theory and substantive electives such as ‘Gender Globalization and Work’. Interspersed with her academic career, Cinnamon led the allocation of funding as part of the Objective 1 Programme South Yorkshire, which aimed to tackle gender imbalances in the labour market and to achieve gender mainstreaming in all interventions. She also worked as a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Leeds, managing a number of UK wide projects which explored the engagement of carers in employment and the response of employers to their circumstances, contributing national policy-making.

Lisa Buckner has worked as an academic and also in central government, on the development of the decennial census, and as a local government demographer. She is currently a Lecturer in Social Statistics in the School of Sociology & Social Policy at the University of Leeds where she teaches quantitative research methods at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. She was previously Senior Research Fellow in CIRCLE (Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities) from 2006-2011. An expert in demographic and quantitative methods, sources of data and analysis of large and complex datasets, Lisa has almost twenty years’ experience in the development of the Census and the use of census data. She has led statistical analyses for many multi-disciplinary, multi-agency projects, and has research interests in unpaid caring, paid employment, equalities and locality.