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Unit information: Narrating the Self in 2016/17

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Unit name Narrating the Self
Unit code SOCIM2127
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Charsley
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit introduces students to key theoretical issues in the understanding of ethnographic experience, social science research and their textual transformation. It exemplifies the advantages of drawing upon conceptual approaches from several disciplines, namely, sociology, anthropology and philosophy and from narrative theory in order to construct a distinctively self-reflexive social approach to field- work methods. Students will be introduced to a range of literatures on epistemology and research methods, narrative theory, the role of memory and narrative in history, the debate on writing culture, the contribution of landscape to the construction of self and other and the contribution of autobiographical experience to the construction of social facts. It addresses issues arising from the challenge of cross-cultural translation and understanding.


  • To problematize the relationship between fieldwork and authorship.
  • To recognize perspectivalism and its implications for research and writing.
  • To understand the varieties of agency and their cultural contexts.
  • To promote awareness of emotion in research.

Intended learning outcomes

The unit will enable students to:

  • critically read ethnographic texts and sensitize them to the rhetorical strategies used to establish authority.
  • enrich their capacity for formulating research questions and carrying out future research, through processes of self-reflection.
  • question taken for granted concepts such as agency and authorShip.
  • draw upon concepts from a range of disciplines, principally narrative theory, in order to develop their sociological and anthropological thinking.

Teaching details

The main method of teaching will be weekly face-to-face seminar sessions which will involve a combination of lecturing, group discussion and student presentations.

Assessment Details

The assessment will relate directly to one of more of the learning outcomes specified above in 15 and will be an extended essay of 4000 words (or equivalent) showing an in-depth understanding and integration of key aspects of the unit.

Reading and References

  • Clifford J. and Marcus G. eds. 1996 Writing Culture Berkeley: University of California Press
  • Cohen Anthony P. 1994 Self Consciousness An Alternative Anthropology of Identity London and New York: Routledge
  • Gadamer Hans Georg 1999 2nd Ed. Truth and Method London: Sheed and Ward
  • Polkinghorne Donald E. 1988 Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences New York: Suny
  • Riessman Catherine Kohler 1993 Narrative Analysis Newbury Park, London & New Delhi: Sage