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Revelation of Self in Language

Narrative Identity as Emergent in Conversation

Suranjana Barua

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Human beings have always been storytellers: civilizations have thrived on stories; cultures have been sustained though stories and societies have always shared stories as a way to reiterate moral notions of good and bad. But what do our personal stories tell people about us? Do personal narratives too reify cultural notions and social stereotypes of good and bad? Or are interpersonal stories more grounded in contextual realities; anchored in embodied, gendered lives and, therefore, fragile re-presentations of our selves for others? This book draws us into such questions about personal identity as may be gleaned from narratives recounted in various contexts. Firmly ensconced within the discipline of linguistics and using the framework of Conversation Analysis, it nevertheless goes beyond these boundaries to finely capture the moment of interlocution when our stories define us in conversation. It proffers insights into why and how we tell our own life stories – always in awareness of an ‘other’ with who we are conversing and who has the power to reframe ours stories thereby ‘re-creating’ us. Morality, goodness, gendered identity are all powerful and complex social notions and categories, and yet this book – through its fine-grained analysis of storytelling within contexts of conversation – tells us how stories fashion us, recreate us and sometimes even save us from our own traumatic pasts.

Suranjana Barua

Suranjana Barua is an associate professor of linguistics at the Indian Institute of Information Technology Guwahati (IIITG). Her current areas of academic interest are sociolinguistics, gender studies and sociocultural and political history of Assam. She has also translated works by eminent litterateurs of Assam, namely Rajanikanta Bordoloi, Arun Sarma, Chandraprabha Saikiani, Bishnu Prasad Rabha, Bhupen Hazarika and Indira (Mamoni Raisom) Goswami.