From words to lifeworlds: re-assessing the role of narratives in the context of crisis

Annika Lems (Max Planck Institut for Social Anthropology)
Christine Moderbacher (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Halle)
Darcy Alexandra (University of Bern )
Science Site/Maths CM221
Start time:
4 July, 2016 at 14:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

In this panel we will take the often under-theorised presumptions about narratives as a means of accessing lived experiences a starting point to re-assess the merits and limitations of working with narrative approaches in the context of crisis.

Long abstract:

Narratives are commonly described as a quintessential ingredient of social life: Through telling stories we create meaning of our experiences of the world, and through hearing stories we gain a sense of what it means to be in the world in relation to others. Located at the intersection between private and public life, storytelling is a productive means of creating and conveying anthropological knowledge (Jackson, 2002). Throughout the last decades narrative approaches have become quintessential tools for understanding crisis. The underlying incentive propelling this move towards storytelling is a desire to communicate our research participants' own thoughts and experiences in direct and powerful ways. Yet, while the increasing importance of narrative methodologies in the last decade formed an essential step in creating a deeper understanding for the complexity and multidimensionality of crisis, debates on the hidden assumptions about the links between narratives, crisis and everyday experience have been surprisingly scarce. In this panel we will take these under-theorised presumptions as a starting point to re-assess the merits and limitations of working with narrative approaches in the context of uncertainty and crisis. We encourage ethnographically dense papers based on different mediums of storytelling (e.g. visual, narrative, poetic, autobiographical, etc.) that critically engage with notions such as "experience", "subjectivity", "dialogue", "voice", "life story", or "silence". We particularly welcome papers that address questions, such as: To what extend do narratives relate to experience? What is the relationship between teller and listener? What role does silence play in everyday acts of meaning-making?