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Revelation of Self in Language

Narrative Identity as Emergent in Conversation

Suranjana Barua

Foreword by Tanmoy Bhattacharya

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Revelation of Self in Language

Human beings have always been storytellers: civilizations have thrived on stories, cultures have been sustained through 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 others 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 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 life-stories – always in awareness of an ‘other’ with whom we are conversing and who has the power to reframe our 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.

This is a useful book for theorists of language, identity and narratives; at the same time the general reader will be drawn into the mysterious and alluring ways in which language, even while creating our selves, depends on others for self-affirmation. The author presents candid snapshots of people from varied backgrounds sharing their life-stories and revealing their selfhood in language.

Suranjana Barua

Suranjana Barua is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at the Indian Institute of Information Technology Guwahati (IIITG). After completing her MA, MPhil and PhD from the University of Delhi, she worked at the Centre for Assamese, Tezpur University, Assam, before joining IIITG. Her current areas of academic interest are sociolinguistics, gender studies, and the socio-cultural and political history of Assam. She has served as a language consultant for various organizations across India, and is an accredited aviation English expert and trainer under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India. Barua has several research articles to her credit, published in books and journals. She is also a well-known translator from Assamese to English, and has translated works by eminent litterateurs including Rajanikanta Bordoloi, Arun Sarma, Golap Khound, Chandraprabha Saikiani, Bishnu Prasad Rabha, Bhupen Hazarika and Indira (Mamoni Raisom) Goswami. She is an editorial committee member of the journal Language and Language Teaching.

Tanmoy Bhattacharya

Tanmoy Bhattacharya is a professor of linguistics, University of Delhi, and guides research on Syntax, Psycholinguistics, Gender, Disability, Inclusion, Deaf Education and Sign Linguistics; his research publications and presentations highlight this vast range of academic interest.