- Between PerspectivesNarratives, Lived Experience, and Culture
We thank the commentators for the dialog and discussion they have proposed. We begin by remarking that telling and listening to stories are not an original thesis, especially if interpretive hermeneutics and phenomenology are central references. Academic and institutional settings are diverse if we consider the universe of empirical research grounded on philosophical methods and the teaching universe of practical and clinical disciplines, like psychiatry. The teaching of these disciplines frequently presents them merely as technics. A double reduction is performed: the philosophical dimension of any and every technic is removed, and those who would benefit from this knowledge are presented as simple data (Heidegger, 2007). In hegemonic academic settings in the field of psychiatry and mental health, knowledge is grounded on hard evidence and statistical generalizations in which the patient is usually described as a case of brain affection. In this context, bringing the lived experience of suffering in the form of shared narratives can contribute to overcoming an old problem and, more than this, transform care. Shedding light on values and symbolic references silenced by the hegemony of doctor-centered practices can favor empathic bridges between the person who provides care and the person who receives it, contribute to reorienting practices, and organize services and policies.
The epistemic and pragmatic asymmetry between the health professional who provides care and the person who seeks relief of their suffering, however, cannot be overcome. But the radical separation between an objectifying third-person perspective and a self-absorbed first-person perspective needs to converge on a second-person perspective, relational and dialogic. Methodologically speaking, this process is not about overcoming the epistemological distinction between researcher and researched subject. The perspectives and practical interests of the two points of view incarnated in these figures cannot be reduced to a common denominator. The narratives’ soil is always from the second-person perspective. Even the internal dialog, the act of thinking alone, the soliloquy, presupposes alterity—the alterity of reflection, of the conscience that contemplates itself, of the linguistic community in which the subject is included, of culture, values, and ideals.
Thus, the proposition that autoethnography aims to overcome the epistemic difference between a researcher and a researched subject, so that the speech of each party would carry the same weight, deserves to be discussed. The practice of qualitative research, as well as clinical action and [End Page 173] pedagogical action, are all performed in the second-person perspective of interaction in context.
Our proposal for collaborative writing is inspired by relational autoethnography, more specifically by that identified as collaborative witnessing, where a participant’s life memories are collected from stories that are told, shared and written in a joint way with a researcher (Ellis & Rawicki, 2013). Similarly to collaborative witnessing, our proposal is targeted at a broader audience: the academic audience and people who have undergone life situations similar to those of the participants, that is, peers, relatives, and the community in general. For this reason, collaborative witnessing joins care and knowledge production with a clear activist and therapeutic motivation (Ellis & Rawicki, 2013).
Instituted knowledge and the traditional forms of research are reviewed; the participant’s lay knowledge and their life experience are valued. We are interested in highlighting the contrast of positions between people whose points of view and stances are remarkably different in terms of power and knowledge. The process of cooperation and dialog contributes to the establishment of a testimonial community (Laub, 1992), with an active work of maintaining and sustaining the function of alterity in our culture, which presupposes tolerance and the inclusion of difference, instead of its extinction.
The idea of the non-hierarchical development of narratives is the point of departure, but, as indicated, it does not presuppose the disappearance of differences in terms of place of speech, power, and culture. In the wake of the denaturalization and clarification of these differences, transcultural difference also demands consideration, either in the sphere of narrative construction or in the sphere of care—common settings to the authors of this study. These narrative methodologies and practices...