Too Painful to Remember: Memory-Work as a Method to Explore Sensitive Research Topics

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Qualitative researchers, by the very nature of their endeavours, are likely to undertake projects which involve exploration into the intimate crevices of people’s lives. Feminist research further plumbs the depths of such exploration into the lives and experiences of women. Frequently such research will involve topics considered to be of a sensitive nature because of the threats that they pose to the research participants’ emotional, spiritual and psychic integrity. Whereas one of the basic tenets of feminist research is that the participants should not be exposed to harm, it should follow that a feminist research method such as memory-work must not be deleterious. While the focus of this paper is a discussion of some of the issues which I uncovered during the use of memory-work into the social construction of women’s sexuality in the 1960s, I also refer to issues which arose during my initial attempt to use memory-work as part of a larger project which investigated the meaning of losing a baby to adoption (Farrar, 2000).
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