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The stories we need: Anthropology, philosophy, narrative and higher education research

Scutt, C. and Hobson, J. (2013) The stories we need: Anthropology, philosophy, narrative and higher education research. Higher Education Research & Development, 32 (1). pp. 17-29.

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As higher education research is largely practised by those immersed within the university, the questions we ask, and the stories we tell, over time co-create the university itself. Using Bruner's concept of the `narrative mode', we argue for a revaluing of narrative and storytelling within higher education research. We ground our discussion in examples of research challenges where traditional quantitative methodologies leave certain things unsayable and look to our two disciplines - anthropology and philosophy - for solutions to these challenges. Anthropology's intimate and complex historical relationship with narrative offers us a range of narrative devices - unusual plots for research accounts, rich data, an ability to tell individual stories in micro-time and wider group narratives. Philosophy offers us a new view of imagination in epistemology and allows us to extend the boundaries of sight beyond individuals, considering the possibility of examining the university itself as a character, a reflexive subject. We argue that our disciplines' capacities to tell these rare tales - oddly shaped personal narratives, group narratives, narratives with unusual characters, quests, reversals and tricksters, and stories that ultimately morph back into questions - allow us to find again some of the `forgotten things' of higher education research.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Student Learning Centre
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
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