Discerning the Dialogical Self: A Theoretical and Methodological Examination of a Nepali Adolescent's Narrative


  • Debra Skinner University of North Carolina
  • Jaan Valsiner Clark University
  • Dorothy Holland University of North Carolina




BAKHTIN, identity, narrative, self processes, cultural worlds, heteroglossia, voice, utterance, dialogism, Nepal, speech genre, social language, caste, ideological consciousness


Mikhail BAKHTIN's ideas of heteroglossia, voice, utterance, and dialogism are important theoretical concepts for investigating relations between social and personal facets of human development, especially the development of identity or self-understandings in cultural worlds. Yet methodological and analytic procedures for discerning voices in individuals' self-representations are relatively unexplored. In this paper, we discuss how BAKHTIN's ideas can be used in a type of narrative analysis that focuses on the construction of individual identity and positionality within cultural worlds. We use an empirical example from one Nepali adolescent's narration of self, collected as part of an extensive ethnographic study in a rural community in Nepal, to illustrate the conjunction of theory and method in discerning how individuals orchestrate the voices from their cultural and social worlds to create distinctive images of self and to envision their (future) social positions. Our examination of this narrative indicates that self processes orchestrate and transform social voices for past, present and future forms of self-understandings and cultural meanings. The primary foci in this paper are the theoretical concepts, methods and analysis that aid the researcher in discerning and understanding these voices and their orchestrations. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0103187


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Author Biographies

Debra Skinner, University of North Carolina

Debra SKINNER is a cultural anthropologist who has done research in Nepal and the U.S. on children's developing identities and productions of knowledge in cultural worlds. She also conducts studies on the intersection of poverty, disability, and ethnicity; and the social, legal, and ethical implications of genetic research.

Jaan Valsiner, Clark University

Jaan VALSINER (http://www.qualitative-research.net/fqs/beirat/valsiner-e.htm) is interested in how human beings regulate their affective and mental functions through creating and demolishing hierarchies of signs—semiotic mediators. He is the Editor of Culture & Psychology (London: Sage) and From Past to Future (Worcester, Ma: Clark University Press).

Dorothy Holland, University of North Carolina

Dorothy HOLLAND works with colleagues on questions of identity, activism and social movements. Our most recent books are the co-edited History in Person: Enduring Struggles, Contentious Practice, Intimate Identities (School of American Research Press 2001), Selves in Time and Place: Identity, Experience and History in Nepal (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 1998) and the co-authored Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds (Harvard 1998).




How to Cite

Skinner, D., Valsiner, J., & Holland, D. (2001). Discerning the Dialogical Self: A Theoretical and Methodological Examination of a Nepali Adolescent’s Narrative. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 2(3). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-2.3.913

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