Life Narratives, Common Language and Diverse Ways of Belonging


  • Katarzyna Kwapisz Williams Australian National University



insider, positionality, language, gender, Polish diaspora, Australia, life writing, participant observation


The article discusses my experiences of gradual immersion into the community of Polish migrants to Australia, which I joined while researching life writing of Polish post-war women migrants to Australia. I focus on how my assumptions concerning commonality of culture and language transformed during the preliminary stages of my research. I initially assumed that speaking the same language as the writers whose works I study, and their ethnic community, would position me as a person sharing the same cultural knowledge, and allow me immediate access to research participants. Yet, the language I considered to be the major marker of ethnic identity exhibited multiplicity instead of unity of experiences, positions and conceptual worlds. Instead, gender, which I had considered a fluid and unstable category highly context-dependent especially in the migration framework, proved to be an important element of interaction and communication between myself and my research participants. I have learnt that it is critical for research on diaspora, including diaspora's literary cultures, to account for other identity markers that include me as a researcher into some Polish community groups while excluding from others. I base my contribution on various kinds of materials, including field notes, fieldwork diaries and interviews with Polish writers as well as secondary literature on Poles and Australians of Polish extraction in Australia.



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Author Biography

Katarzyna Kwapisz Williams, Australian National University

Katarzyna Kwapisz WILLIAMS, Dr., is a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for European Studies, the Australian National University, Canberra. Previously, she was an assistant professor at the British and Commonwealth Studies Department, University of Lodz, Poland. Her research interests include literary anthropology, utopian and diasporic literature, memory studies, digital media and Renaissance studies. Her publications include a monograph "Deforming Shakespeare: Investigations in Textuality and Digital Media" (2009). Her current work deals with diasporic writing, and myth and images of Australia in European literature and culture.>




How to Cite

Williams, K. K. (2015). Life Narratives, Common Language and Diverse Ways of Belonging. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 16(2).



Researcher, Migrant, Woman: Methodological Implications of Multiple Positionalities in Migration Studies