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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/tmbz-j528


AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Narrative Anthropology: Identity, Truth, and Narrative Mediation





Narratives are primary “truth-telling” instruments that states have used in legitimizing their nation-building efforts, mobilizing citizens in social engineering projects, and pushing forward their ideological agendas. They are also important tools for social groups to construct and maintain identity and solidarity more generally. This is especially significant today in the context of the global crisis of rising nationalism, populism, division and polarization. Based on in-depth ethnographic accounts, textual-analysis and other methods, our roundtable aims to understand cultural milieus, sociopolitical tensions, embodied practices that are involved in nation-states’ and social groups’ inventing, promoting or circulating narratives across different social domains and in the context of distinct regimes of power. On a theoretical level, within a broad, psychological anthropology framework, this panel advocates a “narrative anthropology” approach that places narrative as the center of analysis and articulates an expanded notion of narrative: 1) narrative is considered as a form of semiotic mediation, where narrative tools shape speaking and thinking; 2) narrative analysis also attends to psychological processes including cognition, human emotion and embodiment; and 3) competing narratives are involved in speaking and thinking about truth in national and global contexts. This approach emphasizes the unique contributions of narrative analysis to interdisciplinary conversation and collaboration between anthropology, humanities and cognitive science. The participants in our roundtable will draw from their individual research projects to provide numerous ethnographic insights from the U.S.,Russia, Georgia, and Central America and across various social domains, and bring these case studies into theoretical dialogue. James V. Wertsch outlines a theoretical blueprint for narrative anthropology, and his paper articulates a proposal for situating narrative anthropology within a broader movement in the social sciences. Nutsa Batiashvili examines nationalist historiography in the Soviet and Post-Soviet South Caucasus to show how national narratives produce both mental and embodied predispositions. Doc Billingsley’s paper, an ethnography of historical memory among K’iche’ Maya communities in the Guatemalan Highlands, reveals two patterns in their narratives and demonstrates how Maya youth draw upon these narratives to craft and revitalize their ethnolinguistic identities. Anna Jacobson’s research, located in a local VA hospital and through a local Hospice Care organization in St. Louis, Missouri, examines how fundamental ethics of care and care interactions are created through the sharing of life stories that re-insert dignity and meaning into otherwise dehumanized spaces. Taken together, our panel highlights the role of narrative in linking truth, nation-states, social groups and individuals’ lived experience.


Transcript English (automatic)

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