Frameworks of understanding are critical sites of power (Butler, 2002; Morrison, 1992). The reflections in this essay are about finding ways of enabling the disclosure of what these frameworks admit and contain and what they deny and exclude. In the opening reflection this key insight of critical race theory is used to deconstruct and question how a moment of revelation (about race) may simultaneously be a moment of concealment. This insight is then applied to examining personal narratives as an approach that centres on ‘documenting, recording and transmitting’ marginalised women’s lives. Whilst this feminist methodology focuses on otherwise excluded lives, and is important for understanding how gender regimes work, it may neither involve integrating the concept of gender into analysis nor illuminate intersectional inequalities of social class and race. These insights are applied to reflections on the overwhelming appeal of personal accounts of the Northern Ireland/Irish conflict. The power of this appeal is rarely critiqued for its assumptions and silences to do with gender, sect and class. Intersectional analysis is recommended as a corrective to these omissions. Learning to listen for silences is similar to the critical work of deconstructing frameworks of understanding.
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