When's a story not at story?

Eva Christensen

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterResearch


    This paper is founded on a Ph.D.-project whose aim, by examining narrative sense-making processes gathered at Christiania, the “free city” within Copenhagen, is to describe how conversational narratives, referring to the same historical events, change among various communicative contexts within the social field. The notion ‘story’ here refers to the telling of what occurred according to the teller, ending with the telling of the punchline (see Sacks, 1974 and 1992, vol II, pp.478-482). ‘Narrative’ refers to a more extended unit of actions including also the participants’ evaluation of the reported events (e.g. Labov & Waletzky, 1967; Ochs, 1997). Using oral narratives collected from tourist guides, group discussions, meetings and interviews, it will be shown how stories referring to the same historical event are told almost identically regarding structure, but whose function in context differs. For example, as presented in this paper, a tourist guide tells the same story about a violent motorcycle gang, part of her ancetdotal reportoire, during two guided tours. The story is fixed in content and structure, but when brought into social interaction with tourists, it becomes part of a broader narrative activity, and involves complex processes of constructing identities. The very same story serves as a ressource for different sense-making and identity constructing processes in different contexts. The paper points to the following conclusions: 1. A story may appear to have fixed meaning and structure, but when used in social interaction the story serves as a ressource for negotiation and sense-making, rather than presenting fixed meaning. 2. To grasp the complex sense-making processes performed within a social field, a narrative analysis should focus not so much on "the story itself" as a structural phenomenon, but on the broader narrative activity, including interactional evaluation and negotiation of the story’s modality and content. 3. More effort ought to be put into understanding the narrative activity as part of various communicative projects of the actual ongoing conversation, for example, identity construction.
    Translated title of the contributionHvor ender og begynder historien?
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2005
    Publication statusPublished - 2005
    Event9th International Pragmatics Conference - Riva del Garda, Italy
    Duration: 10 Jul 200515 Jul 2005


    Conference9th International Pragmatics Conference
    CityRiva del Garda

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