Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Steve Coleman
Condensed and Insurgent Narratives
CREOLE Intensive Programme: Ethnographic Narratives: Stories, Biographies, and Plots
Bern, Switzerland
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
In May 2018, by a huge majority, Irish voters overturned a 35 year old constitutional ban on abortion. Astonishingly, 75% of voters said their decision was made by listening to "personal stories shared by women.” The Repeal campaign was an insurgent breakthrough in which formerly ignored or suppressed voices become audible as women publically shared their stories of attempting to access abortion, in many cases in order to obtain life-saving medical care. I would like to compare this type of narrative with what at first might seem a “more traditional,” historically deep, Irish narrative type: instances where narratives remain largely unspoken but but are understood as, and circulate socially through, their connections to (quite often "mute" or enigmatic) forms such as places on the landscape or sung lyric verses. In these cases, the manifest forms function as condensed, nondiscursive signs, felt to be indexical icons of past events and persons. At first glance, these two forms of narrative might be seen (as James Scott might suggest) as belonging to two phases of cultural history, in which the formerly repressed experience of an underclass becomes openly and explicitly articulated; a sign that "premodern" Irish cultural forms are being supplanted by something like a modern, Habermasian public sphere. I would like to argue, though, that these "condensed" and "insurgent" narratives have much in common, often occur together as two phases of a single process, and are both allied against a third form of narrative, the official or dominant narratives of Irish life.