Life-history research: an emancipatory approach to institutional evaluations
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During the latter part of the 20th century, evaluation research has been characterised by an expansive proliferation of alternative paradigms, each claiming its space as a legitimate research genre. The authors own quest to create a space for an emancipatory approach to institutional evaluations has been simultaneously a rewarding and unsettling experience. This paper reflects on the incursion into the field of institutional biographies, focusing on how to come to terms with what Noel Cough (2002) describes as blind spots and blank spots. To this end, the author explores, in a mode of critical, self-reflexibility, some of the learning and insights, while putting up for scrutiny, some of the unresolved methodological dilemmas. The author explores, by referring to contemporary literature in the field, the epistemological underpinnings framing the narrative method, attempting to understand how it resonates with illuminative and empowerment evaluation. Alluding to vignettes derived from which to disrupt essentialist notions of qualitative research the author brings into the spotlight constructs such as validity and reliability, emotionality and neutrality and the influence of competing voices in research production. This paper problematise and complicate the assumptions that frame the genre with a view to highlighting the potential hazards of the narrative method becoming a "victory narrative within the redemptive culture of the social sciences".