Narrative Power

 

 

 

 

 

 

NARRATIVE POWER: A SHORT INTERVIEW

 

In this short interview, Ken Plummer tells a little about his new book.

 

Q: Why did you write Narrative Power?

Narrative has become a contemporary buzzword: everybody’s talking about it.  There’s now a vast amount of writing by academics in all kinds of different disciplines from literature and the humanities, through linguistics and philosophy and onto history and psychology. Narrative is a hot topic. So why would I want to add to this?

Well I’ve been writing about stories in different ways, largely in the field of Critical Sexualities Studies, since the mid 1970s: and I also feel personally the importance of storytelling in life. Stories of my ‘coming out’ experiences when I was young. Stories that of my illness experiences when I had transplant surgery. And stories that have been central to my entire research career. I see understanding stories, narratives and documents of life that people produce to be very central tools of social research. But one focus is often somewhat missing. And that is the broad political social and historical role that narrative has played throughout human time.  Most writings focus on texts, but this new book is a serious attempt to put the texts in their deep social context. It is an attempt to build a sociology of stories.

So to answer the question.  I’ve added yet one more book to the field of narrative studies to hopefully give us who work in the narrative field a stronger and firmer focus on the social role stories and particularly the political one. There are actually relatively few books that try to do this

 

Q: So what are its central arguments?

 

My central claim is that we live in a narrative reality where stories shape power and power shapes story. There is a perpetual dialogue between power and storytelling. More: we could say that good stories can help shape a human life for the better; but if they are bad they can also help a life fail. So I am suggesting that the stories we tell really matter. Both in life and politics. As many have said before, we have to be careful of the tales we tell, for tales may come true. There can be narrative self-fulfilling prophecies: our stories have consequences. We can see this right now with the rise of Trump, Brexit, the environmental crisis, the populist movements and on and on. Just listen to the stories that are now being told. Where on earth will they take us?

Human beings have, of course, always lived with stories: it is one thing that defines our humanity. And it may be that right now we are entering one of those moments of significant change: of narrative crisis. In my book Narrative Power,I discuss a number  of potential tensions that are shaping our narrative realities today. For example, I discuss narrative inequality in a time of well documented increasing inequalities and exclusion. Many voices, most of our seven and a half billion voices, are not heard much in the world. Dominant voices, as always, shape the key stories of our time. Yet there are a range of responses to this and I look at how both social media and social movements are bringing new stories to the fore.

A second major crisis is the Techno crisis, both of digitalism and artificial intelligence. These may well bring huge benefits to us: but they also bring great dangers. We are literally entering a world of new forms of risky storytelling which we don’t understand, and which often bring dehumanising problems: abuse, surveillance, corruption, narcissistic individualism. The book raises the question of how power is shaping new forms of digitalism and the new forms of storytelling they bring with them. We are only just on the cusp of trying to understand the risks they bring.

And then we have the crisis of the narrative and performative state. States are bound up deeply with the telling of democratic, authoritarian or cosmopolitan stories. Partly through the new digitalism, partly through the new populist movements and partly through the fragility and complexity of states worldwide as they enter a new phase of neoliberal disorder, new narratives are being forged.

More than this there is always a problem of narrative truth. The recent concern with ‘fake news’ is hardly new. What is needed is a grounded and rounded approach to the complicated matters of truth and wisdom. The one thing truth never can be is simple! It is always a dialogic struggle of many elements. It has to b really worked for, never simply given. Scientific truth may be the key but there are also always matters of aesthetics, ethics, pragmatics – and indeed politics- that need taking into account too.

These are clearly really very big questions for a very short book.

 

Q: So this is an academic book, not a trade or popular one. What would you like the readership to be?

 

A lot of people are interested in narratives right now. So I am hopeful it will find a home gradually on narrative courses especially and amongst graduate students and researchers who are working on narrative. The book is an exercise in framing dilemmas through suggestive examples. It is a provocation to take new paths forwards. So it is in part a book of social theory, in part a book on method, in part a book on politics, and in part a book on the sociology of stories.

It is a book on social theory in that it trying to chart out the political relations of narratives: of how stories shape power and power shapes stories.  But it is also very much a book on methodology. I don’t mean here the kind of checklist methodology that you can find on research courses. I have never been keen on this and I do not want to add to the fetishization of methodology. But I do think documents and narratives are the bread-and-butter of doing most forms of research. And thinking about how they are socially shaped is crucial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narrative Power: The Struggle for Human Values

 

A new book has just been published!

Narrative Power is now available from

Polity Press

See http://politybooks.com/bookdetail/?isbn=9781509517022

12th Anniversary of Liver Transplant

THE WAY IT IS  
by William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread

 

This is the 12th anniversary of my liver transplant.

I have now lived some 4, 380 days more than I would have done at any other time in history.

In the midst of dark times, it is important to remember  donors, partners, friends, professionals who save lives.

And enable us to hold on to the thread….

 

 

12th Anniversary of Liver Transplant

Click on tab above for some of my stories

Have you registered your organ?

Click on Transplant above for some of my stories

Congratulations SEXUALITIES: Twenty Years Old!

CONGRATULATIONS SEXUALITIES!

Now Twenty Years Old, the 20th Anniversary Edition depicts the enormous range and success of a growing  field of research, activism and policy.  Its is marvellous issue, bursting with state of the art essays from many on its editorial board. It is a must read for sexualities scholars. 

In a very dark world right now, it does suggest there is some hope!

Well done!

Take  a look at:

See Sexualities: Vol 21, Issue 8 November 2018

 

Welcome to 2019

 

 

WELCOME TO

THE NEW

YEAR

ANOTHER

AND

ANOTHER

AND

ANOTHER

by James Henry

Another and another and another
And still another sunset and sunrise,
The same yet different, different yet the same,
Seen by me now in my declining years
As in my early childhood, youth and manhood;
And by my parents and my parents’ parents,
And by the parents of my parents’ parents,
And by their parents counted back for ever,
Seen, all their lives long, even as now by me;
And by my children and my children’s children
And by the children of my children’s children
And by their children counted on for ever
Still to be seen as even now seen by me;
Clear and bright sometimes, sometimes dark and clouded
But still the same sunsetting and sunrise;
The same for ever to the never ending
Line of observers, to the same observer
Through all the changes of his life the same:
Sunsetting and sunrising and sunsetting,
And then again sunrising and sunsetting,
Sunrising and sunsetting evermore.

 

Routledge International Handbook of Cosmopolitan Studies

The 2nd edition of The Routledge International Handbook o

COSMOPOLITAN STUDIES

edited by Gerard Delanty

has just been published.

It contains some 50 wide ranging original essays. I have a small contribution on

COSMOPOLITAN SEXUALITIES

s

 

 

Researching Sex and Sexualities : Now Published

I have been interviewed by Charlotte Morris for this new and exciting book. See

Ken InterviewResearching Sex and Sexualities_PB_01

Storytelling Conference, University of Suffolk

STORYTELLING CONFERENCE
10th and 11th July 2018

University of Suffolk, UK

We are excited to announce that the call for papers for our Storytelling Conference is now open. We invite papers that theoretically and empirically engage with a broad range of disciplines reflecting the diverse nature of storytelling and stories substantively and methodologically.

Keynote Speakers

Yiannis Gabriel – day one

Ken Plummer – day two

Ken’s Handout for lecture

The conference aims to bring together established academics, early career researchers, PhD candidates and students. Topics covered by this call could include but are not limited to:

  • Stories as a research method(ology)
  • Storytelling in the workplace
  • ‘Storied organisation’
  • Stories of place, space, movement and migration
  • Archaeological and historical stories
  • Children, stories and storytelling
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Stories in and of education
  • The organisation of story
  • The storytelling business
  • Sex and sexuality
  • Ethnographic stories
  • Disability and activism
  • Cultures and communities
  • Stories and popular culture

Whose side are we on? Lancaster Conference July 2018

The Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI) and European SSSI

Lancaster University 4 , 5 and 6 July 2018

 ‘Whose side are we on?’ Power, Stigma, Transgression and Exclusion in Everyday Life.

 

 

 

Some Notes for:

“Whose Side Are We On?” Revisited: On Narrative Power, Inequality and The Struggle for Human Value

Ken Plummer

 
‘To have values or not to have values: the question is always with us’. And so Howard S. Becker opened his celebrated Presidential Address, Whose Side are we on?at the American Society for the Study of Social Problems in 1967. Today, a half-century later, this conference returns to this puzzle – and Becker, with his key idea of the ‘hierarchy of credibility’.

My talk will fall into three parts. I start by briefly reviewing Becker and some key developments in our understanding of values and ideology since that time. The body of my talk will turn to my new book Narrative Power, and introduce some key ideas about narrative power, narrative inequalities and narrative exclusion, sketching out a basic model of intersectional and locational power which highlights Domination, Exclusion, Negotiation and Resistance. I highlight the dynamics of the subordinated standpointand narrative othering, drawing out a wide range of examples where these processes are featured and suggest many of us tacitly work with this in our studies.  I end with a discussion of the importance of trying to understand the struggle for human valuethroughout history, one that is grounded upon our embodied and emotional humanity. I suggest what some of these values might look like. Knowing our values helps us to understand better whose side we are on.

 

If you click here , HANDOUT you will get ny conference notes:

Annual Symbolic Interaction Conference

Whose side are we on? Power, Stigma, Transgression and Exclusion in Everyday Life

4,5,6 July 2018

University of Lancaster

For more info:  http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/sssi2018/

Ken Plummer:

“Whose Side Are We On?” Revisited: On Narrative Power, Inequality and Hope

‘To have values or not to have values: the question is always with us’. And so Howard S. Becker opened his celebrated Presidential Address, Whose Side are we on? at the American Society for the Study of Social Problems in 1967. Today, a half-century later, this conference returns to this puzzle – and Becker, with his key idea of the ‘hierarchy of credibility’.  My talk will briefly review Becker and some key developments since that time, before introducing some current thinking about narrative power, narrative inequalities and narrative injustice, sketching out a basic model of intersectional and locational power which highlights Domination, Exclusion, Negotiation and Resistance. I will look at a wide range of examples where these processes are featured and suggest many of us tacitly work with this in our studies.  I end with a discussion of narrative hope – built up from five key positive political practices: narrative recognition, narrative dialogic belonging, narrative justice, narrative citizenship and narrative flourishing.