Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Writings of Lions: Narrative Inquiry of a Kenyan Couple Living in the U.S

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Writings of Lions: Narrative Inquiry of a Kenyan Couple Living in the U.S

Article excerpt

Using a narrative research framework, we as researchers (perhaps better described as storytellers) embark on a journey that will bring you, the reader, to Kenya and back. Kenya, a country in East Africa, has had its fair share of politics disrupted by corruption, tribal conflict, violence, and death. Kenyan families face these challenges daily. Some of them wait it out, hoping for things to improve. Some leave for good, wiping their hands of their old country. There are some families, however, who migrate and yet maintain their roots in Kenya. What happens when such a family leaves? How does the family take on the cultural values of the adopted country? What do they choose to hold on to and what do they choose to let go? This story will let us peer into the lives of one family, who has made sense of their cross-cultural life experiences as they weave back and forth between two countries.

In this study, we employed the method of narrative inquiry to present the story of a family that has left Kenya and moved to Southern California. We followed Clandinin and Connelly's (2000) narrative research framework. Based on the idea that people organize experience and make it meaningful through stories, narrative researchers examine personal experiences, family rituals, and beliefs (Daly, 2007). Over time, human beings have told such stories through orations, through pictures, and eventually through written words. The telling and retelling of myths and historical stories create a narrative. The process of listening to and re-storying these narratives is narrative inquiry. The goal of this qualitative method is to understand how people construct their storied experiences within the context of their lives (Daly, 2007). We maintain the assumption that creating stories helps people understand their lives; therefore, narrative inquiry is an effective method of understanding families' realities (Daly, 2007).

Rationale

Although research on Kenya was not hard to find, it is limited largely to deficit-based, medical and health studies. If you would like to know how Kenyans have been affected by the AIDS epidemic, there are over 175 resources in the PsychInfo database alone. Domestic violence? Over 30 articles found. However, these large-scale studies and even the smaller ethnographic studies do not focus on the personal experiences of families--the lives of resilient people negotiating both challenging and quotidian contexts. This gap keeps the perception of Kenyans narrow and incomplete. It also prevents mental health practitioners, researchers, anthropologists, and sociologists from seeing the faces and hearing the stories behind the often-discouraging statistics.

Though one story cannot speak for all of Kenya, it can begin to reveal new ideas, perceptions, difficulties, and achievements that people may be having as they leave one life for another. This concept of applying one Kenyan family's narrative to similar situations is reminiscent of transferability. The degree of transferability is how "the study's findings will be useful to others in similar situations, with similar research questions or questions of practice" (Marshall & Rossman, 2011, p. 252). It is important that the researcher provide thick descriptions of the time, place, context, and topics in order to situate the data (Creswell, 2007; Marshall & Rossman, 2011). It is also helpful for the researcher to demonstrate clearly how models and concepts guided the design, collection of data, and analysis (Marshall & Rossman, 2011). We performed this task by following Clandinin and Connelly's (2000) narrative inquiry design.

In this study, we created space for the voices of one family to begin promoting ideas, conversations, and questions about how individuals formulate and ascribe meaning to their experiences, and how culture and context shape these stories. We hope that this research will be one of many stories.

In this article, we will first flesh out the narrative inquiry approach, and then we will tell the story of a couple from Kenya who has moved to the United States. …

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