A Dialogical Self Analysis of Holocaust Survivors' Narratives

Document Type

Grant Proposal

Date Accepted

Summer 2010

Project Description/Abstract

This research project will examine how people formulate their identities when discussing experiences of suffering and loss. Interviews with holocaust survivors (n = 26) were collected by the “Long-term Care Needs of Trauma Survivors”1 study. The transcribed data will be analyzed qualitatively. The manner in which participants are represented (e.g., as a “survivor”) will be systematically analyzed at the discursive level. Researchers often treat interview questions and follow-up prompts as though they are transparent, the task being merely to elicit what is in the participant’s mind. Such an approach risks neglecting how participants’ self-narratives are embedded in the interactional context of the research interview. A Dialogical Self approach, in which the language of both interviewer and interviewee are examined, will explore how participants’ identities are collaboratively portrayed. Dialogical analysis is based on the assumption that what we call our “self” is not some fixed entity residing within us, as we often presume in everyday life. Rather, identities are taken to be constituted through dialogue. The goal of this study will be to make such discursive processes explicit and thereby show the variety of selves that may be co-constituted when discussing traumatic experiences.

1Funded by the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation through the Polisher Research Institute.

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