The Construction of Identities in Narrative Interviews—A Methodological Suggestion from Relational Network Theory

  • Stefan Bernhard Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung Nürnberg
Keywords: narrative interview, positioning theory, relational sociology, biographical research, network analysis, Harrison C. White, identity, small stories


In this contribution, I propose a methodology for combining studies of situated constructions of identity in everyday conversations (small stories) and in narrative research interviews (big stories) drawing on Harrison C. WHITE's relational network theory and his concept of identity. Identities are constituted through relational positionings on local, typed, trajectoral or personalized levels. In narrative interviews narrators construct interactive identities in the interview situation (i.e. on a local level) by telling big stories about their life courses. Using a text passage from a narrative interview I demonstrate how autobiographic big stories are composed out of sets of nested small stories that contain identity positionings on different levels. I conclude that both sides—of the debate on small vs. big stories as well as WHITE's framework can profit from one another. Narrative interviews may provide important information on the dynamic constructions of the identities WHITE investigates. And WHITE's identity theory may reveal potential avenues of collaboration for big and small story research.



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Author Biography

Stefan Bernhard, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung Nürnberg

Stefan BERNHARD arbeitet im Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung, wo er seit 2012 die permanente Arbeitsgruppe "Qualitative Methoden" leitet. Er hat Soziologie in Bamberg und Galway (Irland) studiert und war als wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Lehrstuhl für Soziologische Theorie an der Universität Bamberg tätig. Von 2005 bis 2008 schrieb er als Stipendiat des DFG-Graduiertenkollegs "Märkte und Sozialräume in Europa" an einer Dissertation über die europäische Sozialpolitik.

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