QOTD: The dominant narrative

“It can be worthwhile, for a researcher,” she said, placing each word before me with care, “to look beyond the dominant narrative.” Sometimes, the people in charge “— she stared at me, hard — “all come to one explanation, and once that happens, they will do whatever they can to cling to it. They’ve staked their reputations on it being right. You know what I mean? But an attentive researcher — like you — might be able to see something that all the experts can’t see. She might be able to rewrite the narrative. If she asks the right questions.”

– Conversion by Katherine Howe

I loved this quote. Taken out of context, it’s feels exactly like a lecture I’ve gotten in some of my women’s studies and sexuality studies courses. One example I started thinking of was the nuclear family or marriage in the 50s. A dominant narrative might be that families were happier in the 50s and stayed together. Research might pinpoint one explanation for this that makes sense and sticks. But real experiences are so vast that often whatever reason people choose to pick to explain something doesn’t accurately portray what is actually going on. For instance, marriages in the 50s might have lasted longer simply because the state of divorce was different. The way we choose to frame things throughout history is not necessarily the one true truth of how things happened. The one dominant narrative of the way things are is not simply the way things are.

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