A rebel band of friends : understanding through women's narratives of friendship, identity and moral agency




Donawa, Wendy

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This narrative inquiry is grounded in friendship. It draws its data from the narratives of four longstanding women friends in the Caribbean, where I have spent my adult life. I draw on these narratives, and on my own reflections, to suggest the limitations of Western Grand Narratives as an explanatory framework to understand historical events and to legitimize knowledge. I locate myself and my participant-friends among the petits récits of those feminist, post-colonial, and poetic voices whose aim is not to predict and control, but to reflect and understand. The emergent design of the inquiry evolves from the interests, themes, and assumptions to which it gives rise. Its meaning-making processes also generate criteria for the assessment of its rigor and validity. The document is shaped by the assumption that the fundamental structure of human experience is a narrative one; thus narrative has proven an apt crucible for this inquiry into friendship, identity, and moral agency. The women's narratives of adolescence illustrate the inscription of the dominant ideology, but they also pivot on evocative moments of self-identity and self-understanding, and evince youthful stirrings of resistance and self-assertion. Their narratives of maturity attest to a grounding of the moral imagination and of identity in friendship. I propose friendship as a model not only for self-knowledge and moral autonomy, but also as an epistemological frame for academic inquiry. I suggest that four practices arising from and tested by friendship—empathy, trust, reflexivity, and narrative connection—are ways in which we may strive to understand ourselves and our world. The women articulate and celebrate difference and multiplicity; they speak to identity and moral agency engendered by friendship, literature, and work; they speak of self-recognition through recognition of other. From these epistemological narratives, a knowing self emerges, capable of choice, change, and agency.



Women, Identity, Psychology