January 29th — Zayneb Al Bundawi: Who am I? Defining oneself through narratives

Who am I? Defining oneself through narratives
Deppermann (2013, 67) indicates that “narratives provide particularly powerful resources for positioning”. Through narratives people take positions towards their past selves or towards others. De Fina and Georgakopoulou (2012: 164) argue that Bamberg’s model of (narrative) positioning has been adopted in many studies that involve interviews and conversational stories because “it affords an analytical apparatus for linking local telling choices to larger identities”. Bamberg’s (1997) model consists of three levels: the first level is concerned with how the characters are positioned in relation to one another in the story world; the second level is concerned with the interaction that takes place between the narrator and his/ her interlocutors, i.e. how he/ she positions him/herself to them; while the third level is concerned with how the narrator defines him/ herself, or in Bamberg’s words “how do narrators position themselves to themselves?” (337).
I apply Bamberg’s model to narratives derived from interviews with Shi’i Muslim women who live in the UK. Those interviews are part of the ethnographic data for my PhD research investigating how religious texts are incorporated into the lives of Shi’i Muslim women in Cardiff as they construct their identities as diasporic Muslims. The religious rituals involved are the rituals of Muharram and Safar, the first two months of the Islamic calendar, which are dedicated to commemorate the memory of Imam Hussein, the third Shi’i Imam according to Twelver Shi’a. In my presentation I will focus on one interview which involves a number of narratives used by the interviewee to prove a point or to persuade. The narratives covered topics such as family and religious practices and relationships. Bamberg’s model shows how the interviewee constructs the story world, how she incorporates the interviewer in the construction of the story, and how she defines herself as a unique person by linking the story world and the storytelling setting to global/master narratives. The paper builds on the analyses to demonstrate how these women take part in majales, one of the main rituals involved in the study; how they use talk about their participation; and how they construct their lived identities through them.
References:
Bamberg, M. G. W. (1997). Positioning Between Structure and Performance. Journal of Narrative and Life History, 7 (1-4), pp. 335-342.
De Fina, A. and Georgakopoulou, A. (2012). Analyzing Narrative: Discourse and Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Deppermann, A. (2013) How to get a grip on identities –in-interaction: (What) does ‘Positioning’ offer more than ‘Membership Categorization’? Evidence from a mock story.Narrative Inquiry 23:1, pp. 62-88.

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