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Thinking big with small stories in narrative and identity analysis - page 5 / 9

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Stories in narrative and identity

calls, text messaging, and MSN) with people the participants are romantically interested in and/or hang out with outside school. Work-in-progress is bringing to the fore the social moments and the local economies of meaning that those small stories as narrative orientations to the world (Hymes, 1996) engender within the school as a site of engagement.

Another salient kind of small stories that has emerged in all three data-sets referred to above, involves projected (near future) events. In fact, I could go a step further and claim that Prince’s (1988) the ‘disnarrated’ is much more frequent, quantitatively speaking, and salient than the ‘narrated’ in the adolescents’ data: the possible, the joint piecing together of future scenarios carries more social significance than the actual. At a time at which one’s place and popularity in the peer-group and in the hetero-sexual market both matter enormously and are dynamically (re)shaped, stories become rehearsals for later action more than reconstructions of the past; they are more about imagining the future than about remembering the past (see Georgakopoulou, 2003b, pp. 75-91). In the data of the group of female adolescents, I have shown how these anticipated and imagined narratives routinely draw upon and embed in their tellings stories of shared past events, more or less elliptically reworked, as interpretative viewpoints (Georgakopoulou, 2005b): the past informs and shapes the future in ways that foreground the intertextual links of stories making them part of an interactional trajectory, showing up their natural histories as events that can be transposed from one context to another across time and space (Silverstein & Urban, 1996). More specifically, the ethnographic perspective on the data alerted me to the importance of such intertextual links and recontextualizations for the participants’ own local rationalities and folk theories of narrative. Stories of shared events were frequently enmeshed in stories of projected events as condensed references: a punchline or a one-liner that formed an indexical link with previous tellings and events. Such references were still seen by the group as “stories” and were part of social practices that supported their role as narrative activities: they had been recorded in the Diary like book of the group’s activities as lengthy and full-fledged stories and they had formed the basis for a collection of poems for internal consumption. Their trajectories involved a history of recontextualizations over time and transpositions not just in different kinds of events but also in different kinds of media.

With a small stories perspective in mind, it is not just tellings or retellings that form part of the analysis: refusals to tell or deferrals of telling are equally important in terms of how the participants orient to what is appropriate a story in a specific environment, what the norms for telling and tellability are.3

In short, there was a gamut of small stories in my data more or less connected with the narrative canon. Some of them fulfilled prototypical definitional criteria (e.g., temporal ordering of events) but still did not sit well with the canon (e.g., stories of projected events, given that the emphasis of the literature has undoubtedly been on past events). Others failed those criteria but, as the participants themselves oriented to what going on as a story, arguably rendered them superfluous if not problematic: not treating them as stories would miss out on their social consequentiality and disregard the participants’ situated understandings.

From small stories to tellers

3 . In the data of private email messages, stories were typically introduced on email and their full telling was deferred to a near future face-to-face interaction (see Georgakopoulou, 2004).

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