In literary theory, narrators – or storytellers – are considered reliable when their accounts adhere to the reader’s evaluation and comprehension of a story. Vice versa, they are considered unreliable when their account of the narrative gives the reader cause for mistrust. This can happen, for instance, when the narrator contradicts him/herself, shows excessive emotional involvement, or reveals questionable norms and values. Moreover, sources of unreliability can vary from storytellers’ deliberate lying to limited knowledge of the facts they are telling, from their psychological status to their personal interest in shaping their account in a specific way (see also Shen 2013 for further reference).
As far as narratives of and on migration are concerned, (un)reliability is a powerful and useful tool to employ. For instance, a migrant may shape his/her narrative to protect a relative, or obtain refugee status. However, it must also be considered that, more often than not, migrants’, journalists’, and activists’ narratives are deemed as unreliable by public opinion or by a court on the basis of cultural or racial bias (see Campbell and D’Agostino 2021 for further examples). The OPPORTUNITIES project recognizes the importance of taking the concept of (un)reliability into account when approaching narratives of and on migration.
⇢ see also Multiperspectivity, Stories of migration, Narratives on migration, Narrandum, Tellability, Attitudes, beliefs, and values
References and further reading:
Campbell, Zach, and Lorenzo D'Agostino. 2021. “Friends of the Traffickers” The Intercept. 30 April 2021. URL: https://theintercept.com/2021/04/30/italy-anti-mafia-migrant-rescue-smuggling/. Date of access: August 24, 2021.
Nünning Vera, ed. 2015. Unreliable Narration and Trustworthiness Intermedial and Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Berlin and Boston, MA: De Gruyter.
Shen, Dan. 2013. “Unreliability.” In The Living Handbook of Narratology, edited by Peter Hühn, Jan Christoph Meister, John Pier, and Wolf Schmid. URL: https://www.lhn.uni-hamburg.de/node/66/revisions/264/view.html. Date of access: August 24, 2021.
Work Package: 2, 3, 5