Inspired by social psychology, positioning approaches in narrative analysis investigate the nexus between processes of identity formation and narrative practices in various relational contexts (Bamberg 1997, 2004; Depperman 2015). In putting emphasis on “storytelling as an interactive activity in contrast to stories or narratives as textual products” (Bamberg and Wipff 2021, 72), the notion of “narrative practices” foregrounds the question of how storytellers and their interlocutors position themselves in relation to one another. Michael Bamberg and Zachary Wipff (2021, 75–76) argue that the process of positioning takes place at three different levels: The level-of-interaction refers to the ways in which storytellers position themselves vis-à-vis their audiences; the level-of-character-construction relates to how narratives position characters in relation to one another within unfolding stories; and the level-of-self-construction addresses the question of how storytellers position themselves vis-à-vis their own selves.
Recent work on the ethical and political functions of narrative has adopted the positioning approach to discuss the uses and misuses of storytelling in political and societal contexts. Samuli Björninen et al. (2020), for example, discuss narrative positioning in political storytelling, including possible “dangers of narrative” (Mäkelä et al. 2021) as well as harmful effects of storytelling (see also Nünning and Nünning 2017; Presser 2018). These approaches prove particularly beneficial when it comes to analyzing how (non-)migrant storytellers position themselves vis-à-vis value-oriented and normative discourses as they share their personal stories of migration, engage in practices of vicarious storytelling, or frame migration by drawing on specific narratives on migration.
⇢ see also Integration, Frames of migration, Narratives on migration, Stories of migration, Vicarious storytelling
References and further reading:
Bamberg, Michael. 1997. “Positioning between Structure and Performance.” Journal of Narrative and Life History 7.1–4: 335–342.
Bamberg, Michael. 2004. “Positioning with Davie Hogan: Stories, Tellings, and Identities.” In Narrative Analysis: Studying the Development of Individuals in Society, edited by Colette Daiute and Cynthia Lightfoot, 135–157. London: Sage.
Bamberg, Michael, and Zachary Wipff. 2021. “Re-Considering Counter-Narratives.” In Routledge Handbook of Counter-Narratives, edited by Klarissa Lueg and Marianne Wolff Lundholt, 70–82. London and New York, NY: Routledge.
Björninen Samuli, Mari Hatavara, and Maria Mäkelä. 2020. „Narrative as Social Action: A Narratological Approach to Story, Discourse and Positioning in Political Storytelling.” Internatinal Journal of Social Research Methodoly 23.4: 437–449.
Depperman, Arnulf. 2015. “Positioning.” In The Handbook of Narrative Analysis, edited by Ana de Fina and Alexandra Georgakopoulou, 369–387. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
Mäkelä, Maria, Samuli Björninen, Laura Karttunen, Matias Nurminen, Juha Raipola, Tyttu Rantanen. 2021. “Dangers of Narrative: A Critical Approach to Narratives of Personal Experience in Contemporary Story Economy.” Narrative 29.2: 139–159.
Nünning, Ansgar, and Vera Nünning. 2017. “Stories as ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’: George W. Bush’s Narratives of Crisis as Paradigm Examples of Ways of World- and Conflict-Making (and Conflict-Solving?).” In Narrative(s) in Conflict, edited by Wolfgang Müller-Funk and Clemens Ruthner, 187–229. Berlin and Boston, MA: De Gruyter.
Presser, Lois: Inside Story: How Narratives Drive Mass Harm. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Work Package: 2, 4, 5, 6, 7