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October 2021

Culture, personhood and narrative: The problem of norms and agency

Journal/Book: Cult Psychol. 1999; 5: 6 Bonhill Street, London EC2a 4Pu, England. Sage Publications Ltd. 399-412.

Abstract: This is a critical evaluation of Gone, Miller and Rappaport's (1999) analysis of the significance of past personal narrative for the study of conceptual self in cultural identity. Gone et al. Address the dilemma, in cultural psychology, of how best to concentrate analytic attention upon the agency of the individual, on the one hand, while simultaneously assessing the pre-existing framework of semiotic resources constructing individual action, on the other. The authors, correctly I believe, critique both extremes of reducing these processes either to an autonomous agent, an individual more or less creatively free from the conventions of cultural expression, or, alternatively, to the reification of culture as monolithic and propelling the passive individual. This commentary, it is hoped, drawing upon cultural anthropological and psychological anthropological paradigms, contributes toward resolution of these circular arguments, which tend to vacillate between individualist and collectivist conceptions of culture, society and the individual. The present commentary develops Gone et al.'s ideas and offers some suggestions for moving beyond them, toward a more dynamic and less culture-bound concept of person and narrative.

Note: Article Rasmussen S, Univ Houston, Houston,TX 77004 USA

Keyword(s): concept of person or self; culture; life history; oral narrative and memory; psychology

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