All in the family: Small stories and narrative construction of a shared family identity that includes pets
- Author: Alla V. Tovares 1
- Source: Narrative Inquiry, Volume 20, Issue 1, 01 January 2010 , pages 1 –19
In recent years, narrative analysis has experienced what can be identified as a small stories turn. Specifically, some researchers, especially Bamberg (2004, 2006), Georgakopoulou (2006, 2007), Bamberg and Georgakopoulou (2008), have argued that the analysis of small stories that have been previously overlooked in favor of large-scale autobiographical narratives presents a valuable contribution to our understanding of identity construction and display. This paper builds on and extends the discussion of small stories as sites for identity construction by demonstrating how various small stories — retellings, hypothetical narratives, near-narrative structures as well as short past-oriented narratives — all construct a coherent family identity that includes pets as members. While a number of previous studies considered narrative as a key site for exploring how family members construct social identities, they primarily focused on individual family members and centered their analyses on traditional past-oriented narratives often limiting their settings to dinner-table conversations or interviews. In contrast, this study, drawing on prior studies of discursive construction of a shared family identity (Gordon, 2007) and pets as family members (Tannen, 2004), demonstrates how a shared family identity that includes pets emerges in diverse small stories that are embedded in on-going conversations and occur in a variety of places: a car, a dining room, a living room. This paper also shows how small stories about pets simultaneously create a shared family identity that includes pets and situate this family within a larger social discourse, or Discourse (Gee, 1996, 1999), of treating pets as family members.
Affiliations: 1: Howard University