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Stories of Change

Narrative and Social Movements

Joseph E. Davis

Publication Year: 2002

Despite the amount of storytelling in social movements, little attention has been paid to narrative as a form of movement discourse or as a mode of social interaction. Stories of Change is a systematic study of narrative as well as a demonstration of the power of narrative analysis to illuminate many features of contemporary social movements. Davis includes a wide array of stories of change—stories of having been harmed or wronged, stories of conflict with unjust authorities, stories of liberation and empowerment, and stories of strategic success and failure. By showing how these stories are a powerful vehicle for producing, regulating, and diffusing shared meaning, the contributors explore movement stories, their functions, and the conditions under which they are created and performed. They show how narrative study can illuminate social movement emergence, recruitment, internal dynamics, and identity building.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii

PART ONE: Narrative and the Sociology of Social Movements

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1. Narrative and Social Movements The Power of Stories

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pp. 3-29

The past two decades have witnessed a great flowering in writing about narrative and the effort by a wide variety of scholars to incorporate it into their disciplines. The study of narrative in fiction has, of course, long been central to literary theory. More recently, however, narrative study has moved out of English Departments to...

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2. Plotting Protest: Mobilizing Stories in the 1960 Student Sit-Ins

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pp. 31-51

On February 1, 1960, four black students from Greensboro Agricultural and Technical College purchased a few items in the downtown Woolworth and then sat down at its whites-only lunch counter. Told that they could not be served, they remained seated until the store closed. They resumed the sit-in the next day and the next, joined by other students...

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3. Controlling Narratives and Narratives as Control within Social Movements

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pp. 53-75

As the essays in this volume demonstrate, narrations constitute a pervasive and influential form of activity for collective actors across a wide array of social movements—be they concerned with politics, religion, or lifestyle. My interest in this chapter is not with the form or content of such stories; nor am I concerned with how collective action narratives are...

PART TWO: Analysis of Narrative in Social Movements

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4. “Getting Our Histories Straight”: Culture, Narrative, and Identity in the Self-Help Movement

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pp. 79-99

As the opening epigraph suggests, this chapter will discuss narrative as a fundamental resource for achieving a coherent understanding of human action, both at the individual and, since there is an inescapable tie between the two (Mead 1934, 1978), the communal levels. Narrative’s overarching significance in social life is perhaps nowhere more clearly and...

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5. Moving Toward the Light: Self, Other, and the Politics of Experience in New Age Narratives

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pp. 101-122

To read R. D. Laing’s work today is to revisit an era—temporally close, temperamentally distant—when a renowned psychiatrist could conclude a book with fifteen pages of LSD-inspired word salad and still produce a bestseller.1 Laing claimed that self-estrangement was ubiquitous in American society, and he blamed it on resistance to the truth of inner...

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6. Fundamentalism: When History Goes Awry

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pp. 123-148

Religious fundamentalism is a complex and diverse phenomenon. Fundamentalist movements are a highly contingent, historically specific set of local, regional, and national movements operating toward any number of discrete ends: some expressly political, some cultural, some theological, and most, various combinations of all three. As a global concept, ...

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7. Drug Court Stories: Transforming American Jurisprudence

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pp. 149-177

Recent social movement scholarship has usefully shifted attention to the important cultural variables that drive and give meaning to social movements—a focus that was given limited attention for many years. In this chapter, I analyze an important movement within the American criminal justice system that gives empirical support to the legitimacy of this new...

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8. Compassion on Trial: Movement Narrative in a Court Conflict over Physician-Assisted Suicide

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pp. 179-202

One of the salutary effects of the recent cultural shift in social movements research has been to focus new attention on the stories told within movements by their members (Fine 1995; many of the chapters in this volume). The study of such “internal narratives” yields insight into many of the movement’s features, including how group culture is...

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9. Movement Advocates as Battered Women’s Storytellers From Varied Experiences, One Message

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pp. 203-225

In the mid-1970s, a relatively loose coalition of feminists, academics, mental health professionals, and social workers first mobilized to define domestic violence as an urgent social problem. This initial coalition and the attention it generated from policy makers, the media, and the public launched the “battered women’s movement.” Employing an analysis...

PART THREE: Conclusion

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10. The Storied Group: Social Movements as “Bundles of Narratives”

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pp. 229-245

One cannot predict when one’s claims will hit a nerve. This book represents a reflex to a casual, if insistent, tap. As a scholar whose work explored the areas of small groups (Fine 1979, 1982), folk narrative (Fine 1992), organizational culture (Fine 1984), and collective behavior (Rosnow and Fine 1976; Fine and Stoecker 1985), I had been interested in...


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pp. 247-273


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pp. 275-277


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pp. 279-286

E-ISBN-13: 9780791489536
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791451915
Print-ISBN-10: 0791451917

Page Count: 294
Publication Year: 2002