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Teaching political science through memory work
Unformatted Document Text:  participate. Three students declined participation and have, consequently, not been included the material. On the day that the memory work was to be carried out, the students came to class with their stories already written. As they had previously been divided into groups, the process of working with the stories could begin fairly promptly. First, the stories were read aloud one by one. After this, the students freely associated, describing their thoughts and feelings in relation to each other’s stories. In the teachers memoranda (written shortly after the seminar) this first round of readings and association is described as extremely creative and exciting. The stories themselves were experienced as very “good”, compelling and emotionally strong. After a short break, the second phase began; the stories were to be compared to one another and similarities and differences between them pinpointed. At this point in the working process, the stories are to be regarded as texts, as an empirical material that is to be interpreted, and not as accounts of something that has actually happened. This phase was more difficult. The teachers describe how the discussions got stuck and how the memory stories tended to get lost in discussions of “how things really are”. Finally, in the third phase of interpretation, the stories were to be analysed and positioned in relation to the theoretical texts. The teachers describe this phase as clearly the most troublesome. The students did not really seem to grasp what they were expected to do and turned to the teachers for guidance. The following day the other half of the students dealt with the issue of gender and nation and the same course literature. While the assignment encompassed the same three interpretative steps, these students worked with the more conventional empirical material in the handout mentioned above. Here the teachers comment that the different groups worked with the material in very 8

Authors: Wendt, Maria. and Åse, Cecilia.
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participate. Three students declined participation and have, consequently, not been included the
material.
On the day that the memory work was to be carried out, the students came to class with their
stories already written. As they had previously been divided into groups, the process of working
with the stories could begin fairly promptly. First, the stories were read aloud one by one. After
this, the students freely associated, describing their thoughts and feelings in relation to each
other’s stories. In the teachers memoranda (written shortly after the seminar) this first round of
readings and association is described as extremely creative and exciting. The stories themselves
were experienced as very “good”, compelling and emotionally strong. After a short break, the
second phase began; the stories were to be compared to one another and similarities and
differences between them pinpointed. At this point in the working process, the stories are to be
regarded as texts, as an empirical material that is to be interpreted, and not as accounts of
something that has actually happened. This phase was more difficult. The teachers describe how
the discussions got stuck and how the memory stories tended to get lost in discussions of “how
things really are”. Finally, in the third phase of interpretation, the stories were to be analysed and
positioned in relation to the theoretical texts. The teachers describe this phase as clearly the most
troublesome. The students did not really seem to grasp what they were expected to do and turned
to the teachers for guidance.
The following day the other half of the students dealt with the issue of gender and nation and the
same course literature. While the assignment encompassed the same three interpretative steps,
these students worked with the more conventional empirical material in the handout mentioned
above. Here the teachers comment that the different groups worked with the material in very
8


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