Composing Stories to Live By in Liminal Spaces: A Narrative Inquiry into the Experiences of Individuals with Multiple Racal Heritages
Gates, Mary Joan
University of Kansas
Curriculum and Teaching
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This study narratively inquired into the composing of stories to live by—a narrative view of identity (Connelly & Clandinin, 1999)—of individuals with multiple racial heritages. Drawing upon the relational nature of narrative inquiry, and by attending to the three-dimensional narrative inquiry space of the personal and social, the temporal, and place or series of places (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000), I came alongside three participants over a period of 18 months as they lived, told, retold, and relived stories of experiences as individuals with multiple racial heritages living within the United States. Research literature on identity development of persons with multiple racial heritages has focused on the path or paths taken toward racial identity resolution and the personal and social factors involved. This inquiry aimed to contribute to understanding the complexities that shape the composing of stories to live by of individuals with multiple racial heritages as they move between inside-of-school and outside-of-school contexts over time. This inquiry revealed five narrative threads, or plotlines; the composition of their stories to live by often took place within liminal spaces (Heilbrun, 1999) where they felt unsure about who they are and where they belong: (1) within familial narratives; (2) in spaces where race is constructed; (3) within school stories; (4) in spaces of invisibility; and (5) within intergenerational familial narrative. In each of these plotlines, as they negotiated the stories told about them by others, they struggled for narrative coherence as conceptualized by Carr (1986), as “a struggle with two aspects…one to live out or live up to a plan or narrative…the other to construct or choose that narrative” (p. 96).
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