Narrating the Self


A major "chunk" of the data gathered during ethnographic research projects typically consists of stories told by our interlocutors in the field (our 'informants'). In everyday usage, stories are usually taken to be extended, heavily plotted, and artfully delivered narratives. In this course, we take a broader, more inclusive approach to storytelling, encompassing everything people tell, in many different narrative formats, about themselves and the world they inhabit. Such stories are of immense value to us because through narrative people give shape to, and make sense of, their lives and tell us where they position themselves in the moral order. Furthermore, in and through storytelling people structure, comment on, and assert agency over their lived experiences and by doing so, construct a self. The subject of much debate in philosophy, psychology and the social sciences, the notion of the self is still upheld by many, although nowadays often emphasizing the fragmented, locally constructed, and culture-specific nature of the self. One of the concerns in this course, therefore, will be to assess the theoretical value of the notion of the self in narrative analysis, and in anthropology as a whole. More generally, this course explores the (micro-)politics of storytelling to understand how storytelling works as the interface between self and society, between the subject and social structure. Issues of agency and structure will often take center stage as we will see that form and content of narratives, cultural norms and values, and power relations are mutually constitutive.
Course Attributes: EN H; BU BA; AS HUM

This course satisfies



Course Requirements

Anthropology Major Elective