Abstract

This study draws on a narrative constructionist framework to examine the active representation of self and experience in second language (L2) ethnographic interviews and autobiographic narratives of immigrant experience. Analysis centers on two versions of a complaint narrative of institutional mistreatment told 2 years apart by a man who immigrated to Canada. Special attention is given to the collaborative work he and the interviewer engage in to story experience in ways that are sensitive to the interpretation of talk and matters of rationality, morality, truth, and consistency of represented characters, events, and actions. Despite similarities between the versions, the narrative teller uses them for different ends. In one version, specific events push him to anger and to goal-oriented action. In the other, this narrative is made to represent a more general position on the irrational conduct of people and his justifiable anger. Findings also suggest the usefulness of treating interviews and narratives not as one-off (i.e. single or isolated) tellings, but as one in a series (whether in a single setting or across time).

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