Narrative is regularly used to depict and help people understand experiences of health and illness. It is also often assumed that storytelling is universal, something we can all access, a humanising and de-stigmatising force in health research and healthcare.
But this view can overlook important critical perspectives. Stories and storytelling practices around health link the personal with the communal or relational and can both reinforce and undermine existing inequalities and power hierarchies.
Led by Laura Mazzoli Smith and Veronica Heney, the Narrative Practices Lab will bring together a diverse group of collaborators to explore and develop innovative methodologies and long-term, interdisciplinary, critical approaches to narrative and health.
Our researchers will approach narrative both as an imaginative, figurative space and as something with practical, material impacts on peoples’ everyday lives, their wellbeing and care. We will engage with calls for increased clarity and improved scalability in narrative methods, demands for more rigorous accounts of benefits and shared methodologies for practice, and attend to the role of stories and storytelling in navigating between cognitive, medical, social, and cultural facets of lived experience.
The Lab will function as an interdisciplinary research-practice hub which focuses on the pluralist, political and aesthetic complexities of storytelling and engages critically with its function and effects in diverse contexts.
Questions of narrative practice will be explored through three interweaving strands of research in which we will:
Create spaces for new forms of narrative and storytelling about mental health in collaboration with user-led groups and survivor activism. This strand is led by Veronica Heney and will draw on the Platform’s collaboration with ReCoCo, the Newcastle Recovery College peer-led collective.
Build methodological expertise and foster developments in relation to current modes of narrative and storytelling, with a focus on de-colonial narrative practice, working with the Black Health and Humanities Network. This strand is led by Arya Thampuran.
Look at questions concerned with evidence and scale, including the curation of and learning with and through narratives. This strand is led by Laura Mazzoli Smith. Pip Hardy (Bridging Fellow) and Tony Sumner (Curatorial Fellow) – the co-founders of Patient Voices – will work particularly around large archival holdings of digital health narratives and facilitation.
Through a dynamic program of workshops, seminars, visiting fellowships, and networks, the Narrative Practices Lab will bring together key collaborators and stakeholders from academia, healthcare, user-led groups, and creative fields.
We want to connect with and work collaboratively with others in the field of narrative and health and to develop activities and projects which complement and recognise the work of many others.
If you would like to get involved or have any questions, please contact Anna Stenning (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Narrative Practices Lab) who supports the work of the Lab overall. You can also contact Laura Mazzoli Smith or Veronica Heney in their capacity as Lab or research strand leads.