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Title: Connecting big and intimate worlds : using an auto/biographical research imagination in career guidance
Other Titles: Career guidance for social justice : contesting neoliberalism
Authors: Reid, Hazel
West, Linden
Keywords: Career development
Immigrants -- Vocational guidance
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Routledge
Citation: Reid, H., & West, L. (2018). Connecting big and intimate worlds : using an auto/biographical research imagination in career guidance. In T. Hooley, R. G. Sultana & R. Thomsen (Eds.), Career guidance for social justice : contesting neoliberalism (pp. 227-240). London: Routledge.
Abstract: This chapter presents a rationale for the relevance of auto/biographical narrative research methods both to career guidance and research into its context and practices as well as theoretical base. Such methods are socially constructivist in their epistemology—in that people are made by the cultural worlds they inhabit and the dominant stories that infuse them, but can also find the means to interrogate and reflexively challenge these by building alternative narratives and actions, if never in conditions of their own choosing. These methods have frequently been used when working with people on the margins of society and can provide spaces for research subjects to consider available options, in diverse ways (Merrill & West, 2009; West, 2016). Notwithstanding, the single case study or research article, using a small sample, can be viewed as problematic, even where large-scale quantitative methods are eschewed (Merrill & West, 2009). Quantitative studies still cast a shadow given that they are thought more reliable, ‘evidence-based’ and favoured by policy makers (Reid, Bimrose, & Brown, 2016). Despite this, Richardson, Black and Iwaki insist that qualitative methods are ‘more explanatory, experience-near and theory-building rather than the more typical theory-driven approach to research’ (2015, p. 238). However, as Stead et al. (2012) note in their content analysis of research articles during the period 1990–2009, qualitative methods have had a very limited profile in the field. Auto/biographical narrative methods can address important aspects of the neglect. They offer a counter-narrative to prevailing discourses focused on narrow economic and political objectives (West, 2016). They can illuminate individual experiences of social injustice, of the play of the general or macro-level forces in the particular, and vice versa, and how lives are shaped, but can also be thought of and experienced in new, more agentic ways. The focus in such research is not solely on the individual, but, rather, on individuals in context: and what follows is a psychosocial framing of the issue, recognising the interplay of external and internal worlds. We suggest, later, that a theory of recognition, building on the work of critical theorist Axel Honneth (2007, 2009), can lie at the normative heart of good and empowering research but also meaningful career guidance and counselling, in the struggle for social justice in a harsh neoliberal world. Recognition provides a key to understanding some of the relational preconditions for human flourishing. Sultana (2014) troubles the notion that career guidance practice can achieve social justice, beyond a rhetoric that fails to take account of the realities of the lives of many disadvantaged citizens. Drawing on the work of Sen (2008), Sultana calls for the development of a social justice ‘stance’, acknowledging the impossibility of achieving social justice for all in a world where personal freedoms, cultural differences and political norms and the pursuit of profit clash. He acknowledges a move from approaches that rely on personal psychology or economic and human resource management to those that encompass wider social scientific understandings. He notes the move to more critical approaches that question both established theory and what we mean by social justice (see, for instance, Hodkinson, P., Hodkinson, H., & Sparkes, 1996; Colley, 2000; Irving & Malik, 2004). Sultana recognises that such work, on the ground of practice, can exemplify how career guidance can make a difference to clients’ lives at the meso and micro levels (2014). Structural theory has been influential in the UK, notably through the work of Roberts (e.g. 2005), but, like the work of Hodkinson et al. (1996 ), we argue for a more nuanced sensibility in career guidance research, as well as practice. Auto/biographical narrative research methodologies offer this alternative, interdisciplinary lens, beyond the statistical information required for policy development. The methodologies locate research participants in a whole context, by exploring and better understanding the meanings people give to experience. Such research, and the humanistic relationship that evolves when working with participants as research collaborators, can enhance the potential to live a life on more of a person’s own terms. Individuals who fail to find work often perceive their lack of success as their own responsibility in neoliberal cultures (Sultana, 2014). If there are problems, it is they, as individuals, who are at fault, because they are not working hard enough, or performing in appropriate ways. Everyday lives get saturated by these social Darwinist values (West, 2016, 2017).
ISBN: 9781138087385
Appears in Collections:Career guidance for social justice : contesting neoliberalism

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