The term Kollektiverzählung (‘collective narrative’), introduced to narrative theory by Roy Sommer (2009, 2017), describes the narrative construction of an “imagined community” (Anderson 2006 ). While the term originally applied to nations, it can also be used to describe other communities whose coherence relies on some kind of unifying vision or narrative – from football fans to corporate cultures or diasporic communities. In this sense, an imagined community is always also a “narrative community” (Müller-Funk 2012) defined by a set of shared and shareable stories. The analysis of collective narratives can focus on the processual dimension of narrative construction or the result of that process (the German composite noun perfectly captures this semantic indeterminacy), some kind of narrative identity which may also inform, in sociological terminology, an in-group’s attitudes towards out-groups. Narrative identities created through collective storytelling include antagonistic notions of self vs. other or ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ as well as inclusive concepts foregrounding narrative bonding. A collective narrative can also be viewed as an ensemble of stories or narrative templates which all members of a narrative community recognize as representative or constitutive of their shared experience.
Examples of inclusive narrative communities based on a shared collective narrative are diasporas whose constitutive stories typically revolve around migration, generations, cultural traditions, experiences of racism and rejection, or conviviality and inclusion. Examples of exclusive narrative communities are nationalist discourses which reject cultural hybridity or multiculturalism in favor of ethnic homogeneity and shared traditions. Inclusive and exclusive collective narratives are often engaged in counter-narrative dynamics.
⇢ see also Anti-racism, Conviviality, Diaspora, Frames of migration, Othering, Racism
References and further reading:
Anderson, Benedict. 2006 . Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Revised edition. New York, NY and London: Verso.
Müller-Funk, Wolfgang. 2012. The Architecture of Modern Culture: Towards a Narrative Cultural Theory. Berlin and New York, NY: De Gruyter.
Sommer, Roy. 2009. “Kollektiverzählungen: Definition, Fallbeispiele und Erklärungsansätze.” In Wirklichkeitserzählungen: Felder, Formen und Funktionen nicht-literarischen Erzählens, edited by Christian Klein and Matías Martínez, 229–244. Stuttgart: Metzler.
Sommer, Roy. 2017. “Kollektiverzählungen: Wie narrative Wirklichkeitsentwürfe gesellschaftlich wirksam werden.” In Liechtenstein erzählen 1: Demokratische Momente, edited by Roman Banzer, Hansjörg Quaderer, and Roy Sommer, 213–235. Zurich: Limmat Verlag.
Category: A, C
Work Package: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8