This cultural and academic trend rests in large part upon an understanding that storytelling is linked in fundamental ways to meaning, knowledge, and identity. Michael Bamberg (2005) connects the trend to a move away from a conventional and restrictive focus on cognition alone and toward an action-oriented study of “language in communities of practice,” one in which cognition becomes a “product of discursive story-telling,” which he summarizes as, “what people do when they talk, what they do when they tell stories” (p. 215).

In a related explanation, Brett Smith (2007) adds that the contemporary narrative turn is often linked to an increased interest in situated performance (cf. Atkinson & Delamont, 2006; Krauss, 2006; Peterson & Langellier, 2006).

The contemporary narrative turn, as Kreiswirth (2000) observes, often focuses on theorizing “narrative’s ontology, politics, epistemology, ideology, cognitive status, and disciplinarity” (p. 296). This effort has had “democratizing, reflexive, critical, and emancipatory” effects that provide individuals with “opportunities to reveal, revise, and reclaim the past” and change their own lives while changing “established accounts and dominant narratives” (Wengraf, Chamberlayne, & Bornat, 2002, p. 254).

The recent turn to narrative has inspired a range of research methods based on both formal and informal storytelling events. The Handbook of Emergent Methods (2008) edited by Sharlene Hesse-Biber and Patricia Leavy, for example, identifies a number of research methods that use narratives as central features of inquiry: oral history, narrative ethnography, autoethnography, collaborative ethnography, performance ethnography, interviews, and case studies, among many others.

“Storytelling‚Ķ is always associated with the exercise, in one sense or another, of power, of control”

(Hanne, 1994, p. 8).

Rather than seeing narratives as intrinsically oriented toward coherence and authenticity, and inconsistencies as an analytic nuisance, the latter are exactly what is most interesting. They offer a way into examining how storytellers are bringing off and managing their social identities in context.

(Bamburg, 2005, p. 222)