Narratives and Theory

Elsewhere I have argued, following philosophers of history, that ‘telling a story’ is itself what might be called a theoretical construction. It imparts knowledge. Narrative ‘converts congeries of events into storied concatenations—-a task whose object is not so much to isolate social laws as to develop an understanding of contingent connections.’ But if this is so for analysts like anthropologists, it is also true, as Bakhtin argued, for others. The way ordinary people act in the world depends, in part, on their narrative constructions of the conditions around them. In other words, so-called objective reality rarely imposes itself upon human actors in a unilateral way. Therefore, analytic narratives are required to understand complex forms of collective human action. By offering stories of stories, such narratives take on depth, revealing unexpected insights.

-Donald Donham, Violence in a Time of Liberation, pg 194


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