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7 - Silencing Self and Other through Autobiographical Narratives

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 June 2019

Amy Jo Murray
University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Kevin Durrheim
University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
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How we narrate is intimately related to who we are and how well we are doing. Our narratives are built in social interactions with others, and those interactions are nested within broader sociocultural and historical contexts. Thus our narratives can be validated but also negated, negotiated, and reconstructed in ways that privilege both particular contents and particular ways of narrating those contents. In the process, what is not said (silence) becomes as important for identity as what is said (voice). We explore how voice and silence in narratives are shaped both unconsciously and intentionally in how people tell their stories to and with others. Our sociocultural and developmental perspective also highlights the role of cultural master narratives in influencing the structure and content of individuals’ narratives. Using examples from our research, we demonstrate how these various forms of cultural narratives are embraced, contested, negotiated, and/or negated in specific social interactions – giving rise to narratives that allow the construction of certain voices and leave other voices absent, and what this means for individual identity. We also consider the research context as a specific form of interaction that can shape both voice and silence.

Qualitative Studies of Silence
The Unsaid as Social Action
, pp. 126 - 146
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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