Dissertation Defense: Aisulu Raspayeva
Candidate Name: Aisulu Raspayeva
Advisor: Cynthia Gordon, Ph.D.
Title: Positioning and identity construction in personal narratives of Kazakh-speaking friends and families
Mealtime narratives are a site for constructing a community’s social worlds (e.g., Ochs and Taylor 1995). Extending this research direction, I examine mealtime narratives among Kazakh-speaking Kazakhs, an under-researched community and one of the major ethnic groups residing in post-Soviet Kazakhstan.
I draw on Bamberg’s (1997) model of three levels of narrative positioning – positioning in the story world, in the telling world, and in more macro, ideological worlds – to uncover how residents of a Kazakh village community discursively construct their ethnic identity in twenty-five narratives told in audio- and video-recorded mealtime conversations among family members and friends. I integrate this model with Tannen’s (2007) analysis of involvement strategies in discourse (constructed dialogue, details, and repetition), insights regarding conversational sequencing in narrating (e.g., Sacks 1992), and research on audience participation (e.g., Goodwin 1986).
My analysis focuses on narratives wherein Kazakh narrators depict interactions with out-group members (i.e., members of other ethnic and national groups), with members of their small village community, and with members of their own extended families. First, I show how Kazakh narrators position Russians and Americans as superior to Kazakhs in narratives about economics and finances, and Kazakhs as superior in narratives about food and family values, constructing their ethnic identities and reflecting the state nation-building discourse of Kazakhstan. Second, I analyze the narratives about village residents. Narrators show disalignment with dishonest neighbors in the story world, and align with each other in the storytelling world. These narratives, I argue, reinforce the socio-cultural value of justice and equality in Kazakh neighbors’ relationships. Finally, Kazakh narrators tell stories wherein older family members (parents and grandparents) exert power, and entertaining stories about the youngest family members (grandchildren). These narratives reflect Kazakh family values of respect for the elderly and of grandchildren as a source of joy for older family members. Across narratives, relevant strategies to accomplish positioning, and thereby to construct ethnic identities, include complicating action verbs, constructed dialogue, details, repetition, and various forms of internal and external evaluation. This study extends our understanding of narrative positioning while also illuminating the linguistic and social worlds of an under-researched community.
Thursday, June 21 at 3:00pm to 5:00pm
Poulton Hall, 230
1421 37th St., N.W., Washington