Michael Bamberg and Allyssa McCabe
[Narrative Inquiry 10:1] 2000
► pp. 199–222
Narrative Identity Empiricized: A Dialogical and Positioning Approach to Autobiographical Research Interviews
Narrative identity has achieved a scientific status as an elaborate concept of the storied nature of human experience and personal identity. Yet, many questions remain as to its empirical substrate. By exploring the pragmatic aspect of narrative research interviewing, i.e., the performative and positioning aspects of the narrative situation and the narrative product, as well as its particular autoepistemological and communicative tasks, this article tries to bridge the gap between the theoretical concept of narrative identity and the act of constructing identity in research interviewing.
Research data generated by autobiographical interviews are usually regarded and analyzed as monological narratives drawn from autobiographical memory. Narrative research interviewing, however, is always a dialogical, pragmatic activity: Narrator and researcher establish an interpersonal relationship made up of institutional, imaginative, socio-categorial and other communicative frames which are enacted by both partners during the interview. This pragmatic constitution of the interview as an interactive process calls for a communicative and constructivist approach to oral narratives which reveals different levels of the listener’s conceptions of himself or herself and the research situation in the narrator’s story. Along with the different voices and identity constructions, the narrator also constructs different recipients in his or her discursive positioning of the listener.
By using the concept of positioning, we propose both a conceptual framework and the corresponding analytical tools for identifying textual indicators and contextual interpretative resources for a discursive approach to narrative identity constructions in research interviewing. This option allows insight into the strategies narrators employ to negotiate their identities in the situation itself, which may be fruitful for many research contexts that use the concept of narrative identity. (Narrative, Autobiography, Research Interviewing, Conversation Analysis)
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