Sebastian Dümling

Changing societies, changing narratives

How to talk about ‘social change’ and be understood


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Working with a narratological and discourse-focused perspective, this contribution examines how one speaks about societal transformations. Tropes, metaphors and narrative strategies are at the center of the analysis. The empirical evidence is drawn from seemingly distant fields: Statements are drawn from the humanities and social sciences, from popular culture and politics. Theoretically, the paper proceeds from the assumption that a proposition achieves particular success if it proves itself to be interdiscursively legitimate in different systems of knowledge. Such symbolic trade-offs strengthen the epistemic validity of propositions. ‘Societal transformation’ can, thus, be shown to be a disciplinary figuration that is deeply culturally marked. The article is intended as a plea for discourse and narrative research as a productive method to analyze pop-cultural, scholarly and political cultures of the present.

narrative research, discourse research, transformation, political and popular culture, epistemology