Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

Identity, Small Stories and Interpretative Repertoires in Research Interviews. an Account of Market Researchers' Discursive Positioning Strategies

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

Identity, Small Stories and Interpretative Repertoires in Research Interviews. an Account of Market Researchers' Discursive Positioning Strategies

Article excerpt

Introduction

Beyond the institutionalized settings of story creation and storytelling in literature and other various media, where stories are at their home as artistic accomplishments, stories and storytelling are also to be found in other less artistical areas of our lives, namely in interviews, therapies and even everyday talk. Establishing temporal and spatial relations between events, stories accomplish an important role in structuring and ordering them in meaningful ways (Bamberg, 2012). However, stories do so much more: they are also scenes where special characters are cast, positioned and imbued with certain features, and also important sites for identity construction. A particular sort of identity that might be (and usually is) displayed in this configuration is the narrator's. As an important analytic resource, this type of identity display and identity work, in and through stories, is of most special interest for identity analysts from various fields of social sciences, especially in the last decades marked by the 'narrative turn'.

How is identity displayed in everyday talk, through stories in particular? I will start from a somewhat oversimplified but analytic approach that I intend to use. The identity that the narrator strives to achieve as relevant in particular conversational storytelling settings, might be accomplished in a number of non-exclusive ways:

a) by means of a self-reflexive engagement, where the storyteller is the main protagonist, and the story fulfills an illustrative/argumentative function for self-presentation;

b) by means of a story where, even if the narrator is the main protagonist, the account is not meant to explicitly expose an identity on the part of the narrator, but a series of events. In other words, the storyteller does not assume publicly an intention to speak about who he/she is;

c) by means of a story where the teller is not the protagonist. The story is about someone else, some other events, persons, places etc.

For cases b) and c), analyzing identity presentation is not a straightforward task, being embedded in the structure of conversation and achieved by means of interactional positioning before, during, and after the story, in the particular conversational settings (Bamberg, 2011b). However, analyzing storytelling activity that is not centered explicitly on the narrator's own self as the subject has its own benefits (see Bamberg, 2011a). A story-like discourse that is not deliberately constructed to become a coherent and consistent story about self (as is the case of auto-biographical expositions), may provide a more natural and insightful approach for analyzing identity. Thus, although the a) type approach had a privileged analytic status, researchers such as Bamberg and Georgakopoulou (2008) aim to show that small stories that are not necessarily self-centered and highly elaborated, have at least the same relevance for identity analysis as those conceived as answers to 'big' 'who-am-I?' type of questions.

The analysis that I put forward in this paper will rely on Bamberg's approach to identity navigation by means of positioning in story and storytelling activity, considering stories as being relevant for identity dynamics, be it big or small, self centered or as second or third person expositions. Therefore, I will illustrate certain types of identity navigation (Bamberg, 2011a; 2011b; 2012a; 2012b) and identity work (Schwalbe & Mason-Schrock, 1996) done by means of storytelling by market researchers who are the subjects of a sociological interview conducted by academics. I will hold that in an interview situation, one can employ multiple instances of positioning strategies, mobilizing various and alternative interpretative repertoires, that can be understood only: from a micro analytic and conversational perspective; analyzing what stories do regarding identity in certain conversational settings; looking into the master-narratives that the storyteller indexes as relevant repertoires by means of which stories unfold. …

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