Smith, Kate (2016) Resisting narrative borders: Stories of women seeking asylum. In: Borderlands - Biennial gender Research Conference, Wednesday 23 Nov 2016, University of Hull. (Unpublished)

Telling stories is something we do to construct a sense of our lives for ourselves and to suggest to others how we want to be understood. Storytelling may be a deeply personal process, particularly when we talk about our lives. Whilst stories give some insight into the lives of people they are not straightforward descriptions of experiences or events. In this paper I develop a concept of ‘narrative borders’ to explore the stories of women seeking asylum. The term arises from narrative theory about the construction of identity and storytelling, particularly as these intersect with gender, and refers to the context, constrains and limitations that inform how and why some stories might be told, whilst others are silenced or remain unheard. It remains important to value women’s stories, but it does not follow that we should simply accept stories that are told without exploring the ‘narrative borders’ of those stories. Concerned with the relationships between narratives which have come to dominate in the twenty-first century about people seeking asylum and women’s own stories of resistance, I draw on my own ESRC funded research with women seeking asylum. I outline the multiple ways in which women seeking asylum negotiate, rework, disrupt and resist narrative borders through their storytelling. My analysis opens up a critical space that highlights the importance of resistive stories in relation to narrative borders and consequently enriches our understanding of the diversity of forms of resistance.

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