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65 CHAPTER THREE Invoking the Relative: A New Perspective on Family Lore in Stigmatized Communities —Sheila Bock and Kate Parker Horigan The concept of “family” serves as a rich rhetorical resource in individual accounts of community trauma. Bringing together fieldwork materials from two independent studies—examining narratives of Hurricane Katrina1 and accounts of Type 2 diabetes, respectively—this chapter highlights how family stories do more than signify the values and identities of particular groups. They also enable individuals to contest articulations of morality and blame in broader contexts of stigma.“Family” is not only a classification of a particular folk group or a descriptor of narratives’ thematic content, but a rhetorical strategy employed by narrators in contexts wherein their reputations and identities are threatened.2 Since Mody Boatright’s (1958) call to collect and analyze “family sagas,” folklorists have generated valuable insights into the rhetorical work accomplished by telling family stories. Scholars in folklore and anthropology have examined how family stories respond to broader cultural discourses, particularly when these stories are shared by people who occupy stigmatized identities (Brandes 1975; Morgan 1966, 1980). In addition, following the performance -turn in folklore studies, folklorists began to look at stories as more than self-contained, static texts, focusing instead on how both their form and meaning can change depending on the teller and the context of the telling. Such an approach helped illuminate the personal factors affecting the meanings of family stories and the motivations for storytelling (Baldwin 1985; Zeitlin 1980). Other scholars have further explored the link between family and personal stories, bringing attention to the convergences between these two Sheila Bock and Kate Parker Horigan 66 genres (Thomas 1997; Wilson 1991). Finally, folklorists have extended definitions of “family” (Danielson 1994; Goodwin 1994) beyond conventional ideas associated with the term in American culture (e.g., romanticized, heteronormative ). These scholars have shown that “family” should not just be understood as a static entity that precedes family stories, but something that is defined, given meaning, and enacted through family stories and other forms of folklore. Building on this important work, we aim to initiate an ongoing exploration of how“family”emerges as a narrative tool by which individuals refashion their relationships to communities and manage their perceptions by others, when those relationships are damaged by trauma, and those perceptions are constrained by stigma.While the topics of the stories we analyze overlap with themes that folklorists have commonly found in family stories, such as poverty and hardship, family migrations, natural disasters, and near deaths (Kotkin and Zeitlin 1983; Zeitlin et al. 1993), we look at these issues not merely as topics but as broader cultural contexts of stigma. Given that “family” invokes both self and other, referencing family in personal accounts of family health histories and community traumas allows individuals to position themselves in complex ways within broader contexts of community stigma. Erving Goffman defines stigma as “an attribute that is deeply discrediting ” (1963:3), clarifying that it is not merely the attribute that confers stigmatized status,but social consensus about how to interpret it.Goffman identifies three categories of stigma: “abominations of the body”; “blemishes of individual character”; and “the tribal stigma of race, nation, and religion” (4). To this last type he also adds class and writes that this category includes “stigma that can be transmitted through lineages and equally contaminate all members of a family”(4).The category of“tribal stigma”is particularly relevant for our considerations of narratives about family; family can be both the source of stigma and the discursive resource that people use to resist it. Recognizing that“narrative is one means for individuals to negotiate and produce identities, sometimes in relation to otherwise stigmatizing characterizations ” (Goldstein and Shuman 2012:120), we turn in this chapter to the narratives of people afflicted by stigma. In doing so, we are also answering Diane E. Goldstein and Amy Shuman’s call in their special issue of the Journal of Folklore Research on the stigmatized vernacular. In suggesting a next step in stigma-related research,they write that while Goffman“considers how speakers take up a particular alignment, or stance, with regard to each other . . . he does not consider how alignment might produce, resist, enable, or confront stigma” (122). Our case studies attend to speakers’ alignment with family members in their indexing of proximity to their relatives. In emphasizing A New Perspective on Family Lore in Stigmatized Communities 67 their...


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