Transformative storytelling in one transnational family
: navigating complex intersections of identity, home and belonging in hostile socio-political environments

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research conserves through oral history interviews, how one diverse transnational family narrate multiple, intersectional stories of identity, belonging and home. Forty-four audio recordings reveal 10 narrators exploring, and positioning their intersecting identities at an individual, family, and transnational level, some disrupted by war, others by hostile socio-political discourse and events. The complete collection titled Oral Histories of One Transnational Family is housed in the British Library (BL) National Life Stories Collection (Lynott Wilson 2023) and catalogued in the Sound and Moving Images Collection (shelf reference C2011) offering on-line global access. The recordings contest dominant ‘othering’ narratives, giving voice to often unheard family stories of mix-d African American, Native American, English, French, Hispanic, Iraqi, Irish, Martinique and Roma descent.

The research employs familial autoethnography (AE) enabling my role as research-insider to collect 50 hours of testimony from a cross-section of ten family members living in the UK, France, and America. Central to the narrators’ stories are intergenerational family members navigating and reflecting on the intersections of identity, concepts of home and belonging, unearthing layered thoughts and feelings about identity. The thesis draws on the theories of Kimberlé Crenshaw (2017, para. 4) ‘… intersectionality a lens (to) see where power comes and collides…interlocks and intersects’ and Stuart Hall on identity ‘… a never-completed process of becoming …of shifting identifications…’ (Hall 2018, 16), to explore how narrators contest dominant nationalist narratives’ and reimagine individual and family identities in opposition to political and media othering discourse and against a hostile socio political environment.

My research design combines familial autoethnography and oral history within a theoretical framework of intersectionality through a decolonial and social justice lens. I evaluate critically and reflexively the 'auto' role-of self as research-insider, the ethnographic process, and ethics of interviewing family. My positionality is central to the research honouring narrators’ lived experience, steering away from turning the history makers into subjects, pointing to the complexities of navigating racism, discrimination and hatred but not modifying and reshaping their histories.

My contribution to knowledge can be found in three areas firstly, the production of the oral history collection (Lynott Wilson 2023) which disrupts and contests right leaning populist, ethnonationalist and nativist definitions of identity, reframing the othering narrative, whilst celebrating diverse transnational family life. Secondly, the thesis develops a combined familial autoethnography and oral history research approach in a theoretical framework of intersectionality through a decolonial, social justice and ethical lens. Thirdly, it evolves a decolonizing thematic method that shifts away from quantifying and coding the oral history data, to a respectful democratic relationship which honours the narrators’ histories, their stories, resisting turning them into research subjects for analysis.
Date of AwardOct 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorJessica Moriarty (Supervisor) & Ceren Ozpinar (Supervisor)

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