Narrating the Self
Bachelor's Program in Anthropology, University of Amsterdam
Course year: 2008-2009


Brief course description and rationale

A major 'chunk' of the data gathered during ethnographic research projects usually consists of stories told by our interlocutors in the field (our 'informants'). These stories are of immense value to us because through narrative people give shape to, and make sense of, their lives and tell us where they position themselves in the moral order. Furthermore, in and through storytelling people structure, comment on, and assert agency over their lived experiences and by doing so, construct a self. The subject of much debate in philosophy, psychology and the social sciences, the notion of the self is still upheld by many, albeit while emphasizing the fragmented, locally constructed nature of the self. One of the concerns in this course, therefore, will be to assess the theoretical value of the notion of the self in narrative analysis.

More generally, this course wishes to explore the so-called (micro-)politics of storytelling and to understand how storytelling works as the interface between self and society, between the subject and social structure. Issues of agency and structure will often take center stage as we will see that form and content of narratives, cultural norms and values, and power relations are mutually constitutive.

Some familiarity with literature on narrative and storytelling will, of course, facilitate the critical assessment of assigned readings and participation in classroom discussion.





dr. Vincent A. de Rooij (see Blackboard for contact info)

Time & place

Monday 10:00 - 13:00 hrs; Room: Spinhuis, Room 001


Class attendance is obligatory. If you must miss class for any reason, I expect you to notify me in advance by e-mail or telephone. Students who miss more than two meetings may be excluded from the course.


Students are expected to actively participate in discussing the assigned weekly readings. Active involvement in class meetings will reflect positively on your final grade.


Assignments are due at 5 PM on the Friday prior to the Monday meeting.
Please do not submit your work by e-mail but post it on the general discussion board on Blackboard. And please do not send the assignment as an attached Word (or other format) file but, instead, paste your review in the body of your post to the board.
The weekly coursework will consist of brief reviews (appr. 200 words) of required readings or data collection assignments. In the review, give a very brief summary of the main argument of the reading(s), and discuss its strengths and weaknesses. The reviews will be graded, and the average grade for the reviews will make up 30% of the final grade.
The final paper (see below) will make up the remaining 70% of the grade.
Late assignments will have 1 point deducted for each day past the deadline.

Final paper

The final paper (appr. 6000 words) makes up 70% of the final grade. The deadline for the final paper is Friday 26 June 2009, 17:00 hrs.
Late submissions will have 1 point deducted for each day past the deadline. 

Before submitting your paper, make sure to insert page numbering. Tables, figures, and photos in the text should be numbered (Table|Figure|Photo 1,2,.,.) and have a descriptive caption. Also, check your spelling and bibliographic references. The paper should have a title page containing the title of the paper, your name and student number, the name of the course and the name of the course instructor, and, finally, the date of submission. For in-text citations and the list of bibliographic references at the end of the paper, use your preferred style but make sure to apply it in a rigorous and consistent manner.  

The final paper must be submitted by e-mail to the following address:
All papers sent to this address will be checked on traces of plagiarism. If you are found guilty of plagiarism, you will receive a failing grade (or no grade at all), and you may be subject to further disciplinary action. 
Plagiarism is a form of theft, deception, and fraud. It may be committed knowingly and deliberately but in many cases it is the tragic result of sloppiness, time pressure, or simply of not knowing what plagiarism is and why it is wrong. Please read the UvA info page on the subject and consult the following webpages that explain what plagiarism is, why it is wrong, and how to avoid it.

Course schedule (subject to revision)

Week & Date Topic Assignment Readings
1  [2 February] Introduction prepare a brief statement explaining your interest in, and expectations of the course ---
2  [9 February] The study of life stories I review of Linde 1993, Ch 4 Linde 1993, Chs 1-4
3  [16 February] The study of life stories II review of Linde 1993, Ch 5, 6, or 7

Linde 1993, Chs 5-8

4  [23 February]   literature research  
5 [2 March] Notions of the Self

topic & research queston for final paper

review of Holstein & Gubrium 2000, Ch 2,3, 4 or 5

Holstein & Gubrium 2000, Chs 1-5 (& reread Linde 1993, Ch 4)
6  [9 March] The construction of the Self in everyday life

annotated bibliography for final paper

review of Holstein & Gubrium 2000, Ch 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10

Holstein & Gubrium 2000, Chs 6-10
7  [16 March] Everyday storytelling I: Features & characteristics

review of Ochs & Capps 2001, Chs 1-4

Ochs & Capps 2001, Chs 1-4
8  [23 March, Exam period]  

doing research &

9  [30 March] Everyday storytelling II: Looking beyond the surface

review of Ochs & Capps 2001, Chs 5-8

Ochs & Capps 2001, Chs 5-8
10  [6 April]   doing research &
11  [13 April, Easter Monday]  

doing research &

12 [20 April] The politics of storytelling review of Jackson 2002, excerpts
Jackson 2002, excerpts
13 [27 April] writing
14 [4 May] writing
15 [11 May] First draft due date hand in & present first draft final paper


16 [18 May] The Self from a cross-cultural perspective review of one of the readings selected articles (tba)
17 [25 May] Constructing the Self in cyberspace review of one of the readings selected articles (tba)
18 [1 June, Pentecost]      
19 [8 June] Discussing main themes of the course formulate one or more points of discussion  
26 June, 17:00 hrs Final paper due date


Required and recommended readings



Jackson, Michael. 2002. The politics of storytelling: Violence, transgression and intersubjectivity. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press. [excerpts]

Holstein, James A., and Jaber F. Gubrium. 2000. The self we live by: Narrative identity in a postmodern world. New York: Oxford University Press.

Linde, Charlotte. 1993. Life Stories: The creation of coherence. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ochs, Elinor, and Lisa Capps. 2001. Living narrative: Creating lives in everyday storytelling. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.


See Blackboard | Digital Reader for access to these articles.

Ahearn, Laura M. 2001. Language and agency. Annual Review of Anthropology 30:109-137.

Annese, Susanna. 2004. Mediated identity in the parasocial interaction of TV. Identity 4(4):371-388.

Atkinson, Paul, and Sarah Delamont. 2006. Rescuing narrative from qualitative research. Narrative Inquiry 16(1):164-172.

Bacon, Jen. 1998. Getting the story straight: Coming out narratives and the possibility of a cultural rhetoric. World Englishes 17(2):249-258.

Battersby, James L. 2006. Narrativity, self, and self-representation. Narrative 14(1):27-44.

Baumeister, Roy F., and Brenda Wilson. 1996. Life stories and the four needs for meaning. Psychological Inquiry 7(4):322-325.

Baynham, Mike. 2006. Performing self, family and community in Moroccan narratives of migration and settlement. In: Anna de Fina, Deborah Schiffrin, and Michael Bamberg (eds.), Discourse and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 376-397.

Berman, Laine. 2000. Surviving on the streets of Java: Homeless children's narratives of violence. Discourse & Society 11(2):149-174.

Born, Georgina. 1998. Anthropology, Kleinian psychoanalysis, and the subject in culture. American Anthropologist 100(2):373-386.

Brison, Karen J. 2002. Crafting sociocentric selves in religious discourse in rural Fiji. Ethos 29(4):453-474.

Cortini, Michela , Giuseppe Mininni, and Amelia Manuti. 2004. The Diatextual Construction of the Self in Short Message Systems. Identity 4(4):355-370.

Frank, Gelya. 1995. Anthropology and individual lives: The story of the life history and history of the life story. American Anthropologist 97(1):145-148.

Gee, James Paul. 2000. Teenagers in new times: A new literacy Studies perspective. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 43(5):412-420.

Gee, James Paul, Anna-Ruth Allen, and Katherine Clinton. 2001. Language, class, and identity: Teenagers fashioning themselves through language. Linguistics and Education 12(2):175-194.

Georgakopoulou, Alexandra. 2006. The other side of the story: Towards a narrative analysis of narratives-in-interaction. Discourse Studies 8(2):235-257.

Hermans, Hubert J. M. 2004. Introduction: The dialogical self in a global and digital age. Identity 4(4):297-320.

Hevern, Vincent W. 2004. Threaded identity in cyberspace: Weblogs & positioning in the dialogical self. Identity 4(4):321-335.

Hollos, Marida, and Philip E. Leis. 2002. Remodeling concepts of the self: An Ijo example. Ethos 29(3):371-387.

Keesing, Roger M. 1985. Kwaio women speak: The micropolitics of autobiography in a Solomon Island society. American Anthropologist 87(1):27-39.

Kiesling, Scott. 2006. Hegemonic identity-making in narrative. In: Anna de Fina, Deborah Schiffrin, and Michael Bamberg (eds.), Discourse and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 261-287.

Kotthoff, Helga. 2000. Gender and joking: On the complexities of women's image politics in humorous narratives. Journal of Pragmatics 32:55-80.

Koven, Michèle E.J. 1998. Two languages in the self/The self in two languages: French-Portuguese bilinguals' verbal enactments and experiences of self in narrative discourse. Ethos 26(4):410—455.

Labov, William. 1997. Some further steps in narrative analysis. Journal of Narrative and Life History 7(1-4):395-415.

Levey, Steven. 2003. Reported dialogue and pragmatic particles in the narratives of preadolescents. World Englishes 22(3):305-321.

Ligorio, Maria Beatrice, and Annarita Celeste Pugliese. 2004. Self-positioning in a text-based virtual environment . Identity 4(4):337-353.

Linde, Charlotte. 2002. The acquisition of a speaker by a story: How history becomes memory and identity. Ethos 28(4):608-632.

Lucius-Hoene, Gabriele, and Arnulf Deppermann. 2000. Narrative identity empiricized : A dialogical and positioning approach to autobiographical research interviews. Narrative Inquiry 10(1):199-222.

Luttrell, Wendy. 2000. “Good enough” methods for ethnographic research. Harvard Educational Review 70(4):499-523.

Maryns, and Jan Blommaert. 2001. Stylistic and thematic shifting as a narrative resource: Assessing asylum seekers’ repertoires. Multilingua 20(1):61-84.

McAdams, Dan P. 1996. Personality, modernity and the storied self: A contemporary framework for studying persons. Psychological Inquiry 7(4):295-321.

McCollum, Chris. 2002. Relatedness and Self-Definition: Two dominant themes in middle-class Americans' life stories. Ethos 30(1/2):113-139.

Miller, Peggy J., Todd L. Sandel, Chung-Hui Liang, and Heidi Fung. 2001. Narrating transgressions in Longwood: The discourses, meanings, and paradoxes of an American socializing practice. Ethos 29(2): 159-186.

Mishler, Elliot G. 2004. Historians of the self: Restorying lives, revising identities. Research in Human Development 1(1/2):101–121.

Moita-Lopes, Luiz Paulo. 2006. On being white, heterosexual and male in a Brazilian school: Multiple positionings in oral narratives. In: Anna de Fina, Deborah Schiffrin, and Michael Bamberg (eds.), Discourse and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 288-313.

Ochs, Elinor, and Lisa Capps.1996. Narrating the self. Annual Review of Anthropology 25:19–43.

Rosaldo, Michelle Z. 1983. The shame of headhunters and the autonomy of self. Ethos 11(3):135-151.

Schiffrin, Deborah. 2000. Mother/daughter discourse in a holocaust oral history: "because then you admit that you're guilty." Narrative Inquiry 10(1):1–44.

Katarzyna Stemplewska-Zakowicz, Justyna Walecka, and Anna Gabinska. 2006. As many selves as interpersonal relations (or maybe even more). International Journal for Dialogical Science 1(1):71-94.

Straughn, Jeremy. 1995. Review of 'Life stories: The creation of coherence'. The American Journal of Sociology 101(2):518-520.

van Halen, Cor, and Jacques Janssen. 2004. The usage of space in dialogical self-construction: From Dante to cyberspace. Identity 4(4):389-405.

van Meijl,Toon, and Henk Driessen. 2003. Introduction: multiple identifications and the self. Focaal 42:17-29.

last update: December 23, 2008