1 419 Bochner / NARRATIVE AND THE DIVIDED SELF The voice on the other end was calm and deliberate. It's About Time: Art, I don't know how to tell you this. Your sister just called. She said your father Narrative and the Divided Self died last night. He had a sudden heart attack shortly after eating dinner. I thought I should tell you as soon as possible. I don't remember what I said next. I recall putting the receiver down, Arthur P Bochner standing naked, water dripping down my body, dampening the carpet at my feet; and Herb looking pale and puzzled, rising from his bed. "My father died University of South Florida last night," I muttered quietly. "I don't know details." Herb stood in front of me, uncharacteristically silent. His face mirrored the When I learned that my father had died while I was attending a national communication shock that must have shown on mine. Perhaps he sensed the terrible struggle conference, two worlds within me-the academic and the personal-collided, and I was I was having as my mind raced to organize what had to be done next, while forced to confront the large gulf that divided them. In this article, I weave the story of my body yielded to the emotional reality of death and loss. I felt dazed and that experience into the wider fabric of disconnections that promotes isolation and confused, like a boxer who is startled by the first powerful blow from a i inhibits risk taking and change within universities and academic disciplines. In the stronger opponent. Stunned by the punch, he hears competing voices, one process, I question whether the structures of power constitutive of academic socialization inside his head whispering, "Ignore the pain, stay with the game plan," the are not as difficult to resist as those of one's family, and the consequences as constraining. other calling from the site of his body's pain and injury, rejecting the authority I use personal narrative to show how storytelling works to build a continuous life of of consciousness over bodily experience. experience, linking the past to the future from-the standpoint of the present; to proble- matize the process of assigning meanings to memories via language; to draw attention A voice inside my head said, "Get home to Tampa as quickly as possible. to the significance of institutional depression in universities; and to blur the line between Mother will need you. She'll expect you to take control, help arrange the theory and story. funeral, and keep the family from falling apart." Suddenly, the three papers I was to present at the convention had little significance. However, I was too responsible to miss sessions without forewarning. I should contact the chair I could not fall asleep. I tossed and turned in my bed, trying to ignore the of each program, get someone to substitute if possible, give other participants anxiety churning through my stomach. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping a chance to prepare for my absence. when I'm away from home or when I'm apprehensive about a presentation. But a second voice kept intruding on my thoughts. I felt dizzy and But this was different. It wasn't the hotel room or the upcoming convention lightheaded, as if I were teetering on the edge of a dangerous cliff. As I wiped that was keeping me awake. Something felt terribly wrong, but I didn't know away the tears trickling down my face and felt the flood of anxiety swirling what it was. Finally, at about 7:15 a.m., I got out of bed and headed for the through my stomach, I was terrified to realize that I couldn't shut down what shower. I was feeling by an act of willful control. My father's death was not just I don't recall how long I had been standing under the water when I heard another event to be organized, experienced, and filed away. It wasn't only my the phone ring. A few seconds later, my roommate, Herb Simons, called me. "Art, it's your secretary, Sharon. She wants to speak to you. She says it's very plans for the weekend that had been interrupted, but something much bigger, my self-narrative-the way I recited the story of my life to myself. The plot I i mportant." had scripted for my life cast my parents and siblings as minor characters. My secretary would not call me at a conference unless the roof was caving Through this act of imagination, I long ago had recreated myself in order to in. I knew instantly that her call was personal not departmental. Grabbing a diminish the significance of a perverse childhood and not be persecuted by towel, I hurried to the phone, my heart beating rapidly, my mind sorting it. But now, the unspoken life inside me demanded recognition. I tried to make possibilities. these feelings go away, but my efforts only intensified their grip. While I stood motionless, memories circulated through my head, flashing back a stream of Author's Note: I thank Carolyn Ellis for her keen and supportive criticism and unconnected, incoherent, and frightening family scenes. Norman K. Denzin for his heartening encouragement. As if the jolts produced by waves of unsolicited recollections were not Qualitative Inquiry, Volume 3 Number 4,1997 418-438 enough, I also had to contend with the void created by my father's death. At ®1997 Sage Publications, Inc. the moment, it didn't matter that as a child my relationship with my father 418 had been so troubled and destructive or that he had grown old and fragile
2 QUALITATIVE INQUIRY / December 1997 420 Bochner / NARRATIVE AND THE DIVIDED SELF 421 before I could come to terms with the fierce and violent father of my youth. and out of analytical or conceptual frames without experiencing anything The chance to rise above these circumstances was gone now. I could never akin to an experiential shock or epiphany. But when my father died while I prove any better as a son than he had been as a father. We would never have me was attending a national communication convention, two worlds within a final conversation that I could look back on with a sense of resolution or collided, and I was stunned to learn how tame the academic world is in closure. The image I once had of being by his side, of holding or stroking him comparison to the wilderness of lived experience. as he passed- as if a tender, loving touch could magically transform a lifetime As I looked out the window of the plane and saw how small the roads, of painful experience between a father and his son-had been stolen from me. farms, cars, and houses looked from above, I was reminded of Ernest Becker's Our relationship would live on in my mind, but conversation between us had (1973) remarks about the puniness of life in the face of the overwhelming ended. He was gone. We were gone. majesty of our universe. I felt confusion swelling within me as competing picked up the phone to start informing other people, but as soon as I I parts of my self struggled for supremacy. A voice inside me questioned the dialed the first number, I began drifting away. Before I could speak, I dropped motivation for my drive and dedication as a social scientist. "Admit it, Art, the phone into the cradle and was disconnected. When I picked it up, the your work sucks energy away so you don't have to face the reality of the phone felt heavy in my hand. How could I make plans when I couldn't even human condition." I had no ready response, but I was inspired to scribble hold on to the phone? Fortunately, Herb took control of the situation. He asked some notes on the pad on my lap. me to make a list of people to call and assured me that he would contact them. Academic life is impersonal, not intimate. It provides a web of distractions. The Then he called the airlines and booked an afternoon flight to Tampa for me. web protects us against the invasion of helplessness, anxiety, and isolation we As I sat in the corner and watched Herb organizing my affairs, I recalled would feel if we faced the human condition honestly. Stability, order, control- the times I had tried to talk to him about my interest in research on death and these are the words that social science speaks. Ambiguity, chance, accidents- dying. These conversations never got very far. Herb resisted my invitations these are the terms that life echoes. Suppose we achieved the stability, order, and to delve deeper and I usually felt disappointed that we couldn't connect on control we seek, what then? No variance-no differences-no chance-no fun-no adventure-no vulnerability-no deniability-no flirtation-no love. this topic. Now, I was beginning to understand why these conversations had been so frustrating and superficial. At the time, Herb's parents were dead; The notes didn't help. They only exaggerated the divisions tugging within mine were alive. For Herb, death had been personalized; for me, it was me. I felt an obligation to answer back to the first voice, but the only thing I academic. Under these circumstances, what did we really have to talk about? could think of was to reaffirm my commitment to the Deweyan premise that How could we possibly speak the same language? As a result of my father's death, I had passed into another dimension, one that was missing when Herb no matter how honest we are about the tragedy of the human condition, we and I had tried previously to converse about death. We still weren't talking still have to point ourselves toward some hopeful, creative activity. What was "Fashion The Denial of Death? it Ernest Becker (1973) said in the final lines of about death or loss, but when Herb looked at me from across the room, I felt something-an object or ourselves-and drop it into the confusion" (p. 285). the kind of communion that can only occur when two people are woven into But, these words begged the question of how to narrow this large gulf between the same fabric of experience. my academic life and my personal life. It now seemed obvious to me that life On that long plane ride home, I realized as never before that I was a human had a different shape and texture than the ways it was sculpted in the being. It sounds strange to say that, I know, but I believe it is true. My father's classroom and in scholarly journals. sudden death forced me to grasp the significance of how contingent, limited, and relative human experience can be. Most of us realize that fear of death lingers behind the absorbing details of our everyday lives, but we keep our Now, the academic man in me stood face-to-face with the ordinary man. fear sedated because we sense it could infect us if we let go. When our lives are interrupted by the reality of death, our immunity is weakened. Then, if What did they have to say to each other? Could they get in touch with each other? Integrate? Harmonize? we allow it, we can drop the canopy of dishonesty covering the brute fact that The sad truth is that the academic self frequently is cut off from the we don't really control our own lives. ordinary, experiential self. A life of theory can remove one from experience, One of Freud's greatest contributions was to show how meaning is made make one feel unconnected. All of us inhabit multiple worlds. When we live out of errors, accidents, and unexpected events (Brill, 1938). Chance changes in the world of theory, we usually assume that we are inhabiting an objective us (H. Becker, 1994). My father's death made it possible, even necessary, for world. There, in the objective world, we are expected to play the role of me to see the consequences of splitting the academic self from the personal spectator. It is a hard world for a human being to feel comfortable in, so we self in a new light. At my university, or at conferences, I normally move in
3 NARRATIVE AND QUALITATIVE INQUIRY / December 1997 THE DIVIDED 2 Bochner / 423 42 SELF ry to get rid of the distinctively human characteristics that distort the moral or ethical grounding of our actions. Some empiricists may still see social t engineering as a moral exemplar of the best that rationality and method can mythological beauty of objectivity. We are taught to master methods that offer, but most of us recognize that the haunting question of how to live a exclude the capriciousness of immediate experience. When we do, we find good and ethical life cannot be circumscribed by appeals to hard facts and ourselves in a world devoid of spirituality, emotion, and poetry-a scientific objective methods. world in which, as Galileo insisted, there is no place for human feelings, motives, or consciousness. In the objective world, the goal is to speak nature's My personal struggle after my father's death was not a scientific crisis but language without the intrusions of human subjectivity. In some quarters, this a moral one; and the moral questions that were raised cast a long shadow kind of world is the only rational world and the only world that can produce over both my personal and my academic lives. I needed to take the measure knowledge that makes a difference. of my own life and of my father's too. How were the different parts of my life connected? What values shaped the life I wanted to live? What would my I suspect there are as many kind, decent, and loving people inhabiting the academic life be if I could bring those values into play? What would it feel objective, scientific world as there are in any other reality. But, there is nothing like? Remembering the ways I had resisted and rebelled against my family inherent in the scientific method that requires these traits. Findings do not become less scientific if the scientist who reports them has undesirable socialization, I questioned whether I had done the same in my academic life or whether the structures of power constitutive of academic socialization personality traits or character flaws. Remember the Milgram (1963) experi- ments on obedience? They were ingenious and elegant exemplars of social aren't even more difficult to resist than those of one's family. Was the academic scientific research, but they also were spiritually offensive. life I was living one that I had chosen, or was it one chosen for me by my Laing (1982) warns that "what is scientifically right may be morally mentors and by the orthodox academic practices I had unconsciously inter- wrong" (p. 22). Scientists don't normally worry about the moral consequences nalized and embodied? As the product of a working-class family without a history of high culture, love of books, or even a university education, I had of the knowledge they produce or about what they had to do to get to the always felt uneasy and doubtful about whether I really fit as an academic. I truth, but that doesn't mean we (or they) shouldn't thoroughly pursue such knew it was not coincidental that I had chosen to teach at universities like issues. Reciting a litany of ruthless indiscretions, Apter (1996) calls psychol- ogy "an intrusive and frequently cruel discipline" (p. 22) that contributes Cleveland State, Temple, and South Florida, where many of the undergradu- significantly to human suffering. In the name of science, psychologists too ates come from working-class backgrounds. It was not difficult for me to feel often use their warrant of expertise not only to manipulate variables but also in touch with my students because the part of me that was working-class kid to manipulate people and their lives (Apter, 1996); and psychology has not was never removed totally from the ground of my students' world of experience. However, I had to admit that my capacity to draw meaningfully on my cornered the market on these dubious practices. The personal experience in order to touch undergraduate students where they live One of the lessons that I learned when I first read Kuhn's (1970) 20 years ago was not to expect too much from Structure of Scientific Revolutions did not carry over to the rest of my academic world. In the classroom, I thrived science. Kuhn's exemplars taught that the history of science offered no on an ability to call on stories that painted my life into their picture. When I was successful, it was largely because of the tacit knowledge we shared, compelling reason to think it is possible to distinguish what is in our minds from what is out there in the world. Kuhn urged scientists to exercise caution, connecting their lived experiences to mine. But the world of academic schol- arship made different demands on me. As Robert Coles (1989) suggests, to guard against being smug about pushing the rhetoric of objectivity and value neutrality. Scholars like Joan Huber (Huber, 1995; Huber & Mirowsky, graduate education usually teaches us to cover the details of individual 1997), who proudly display this smugness, often miss the point. The problem experience beneath a blanket of professional jargon. Coles refers to profes- is not with science but with a reverent and idealized view of science that sional, academic socialization as a form of indoctrination into the mind-set positions science above the contingencies of language and outside the circle that theory is the way to get to the core of things. One learns that entering a of historical and cultural interests (Denzin, 1997). Scientific method per se discipline means stepping into a world that has its own language; if you want does not make it possible for the mind to transcend the skin. Even when to live in that world, you better be able to speak that way. We learn to tell our science does improve our predictions, it cannot necessarily tell us what to do. version of the lives we study by translating the terms ordinary people use into When we know how to predict and control behavior, we do not consequently the categories and jargon that comprise our field's theoretical language. that he learned to force the now Looking back on his education, Coles realizes know how to deal with a person justly or empathically (Rorty, 1982). It's too bad that a century 'of social and behavioral science has not notably improved stories his patients told into the theoretical constructs that had been forced our capacity to predict and control (Gergen, 1982; Rorty,1982); but even if it into him. These theories substituted for the concrete details of stories, the had, as Rorty (1982) observes, it would not necessarily help us evaluate the teller's representation of the lived life giving way to the social scientist's
4 42 QUALITATIVE INQUIRY / December 1997 Bochner / NARRATIVE AND THE DIVIDED SELF 4 425 the story i expertise at abstracting its meaning. Usually, the theory is there before mage of academic life for 25 years, but I was just realizing how poorly it fit is heard and, thus, the tale works to service the theory that explains it. me. Knowledge isn't neutral; and it can never be disinterested (Denzin,1992; Jackson, 1989). Moreover, scholarly inquiry is not assumed to start at the site of one's own Still, I had to remind myself that the problem is not with the university per experience. We learn to "receive knowledge" by focusing outward, relying on the wisdom of our predecessors to preview our own experiences and expec- se; nor is orthodox social science the problem. These are institutions created tations. "Review the literature; see what others have said; stand on the by other human beings and sustained by our complicity We share responsi- shoulders of the giants," we are told. Start at the site of what they write and bility by following rules, both tacit and explicit ones, that keep there going. you can at least avoid being accused of stupidity or ignorance. Fair enough. We know we're onto something, when we're told, "You mustn't think that I had studied, theorized, and taught about now? way." That's the feeling I got when I read Huber's attacks on interpretive But how was this helping me social science and qualitative research (Huber, 1995; Huber & Mirowsky, loss and attachment for more than two decades, but I had to admit that I didn't 1997). I had to wonder why she was telling me that I mustn't think these really begin to know loss until I experienced my father's death. And the more I thought about my own experience of loss, read other people's accounts of thoughts. Her warnings give me pause to consider whether I've been playing according to rules I didn't know I was following. Laing (1969) declares that loss, and reviewed the theoretical and research literature, the more I began to understand that the academic world was not in touch with the everyday "unless we can 'see through' the rules, we only see through them" (p.105 ). If we collectively stop complying, we stand a chance of exposing and breaking world of experience, the ordinary world. The research literature offered me data, labels, categories, and theoretical explanations, but it didn't express how the rules against seeing the rules. We can begin thinking thoughts we're not loss felt and it didn't invite engagement with the particularities of the expe- supposed to think. Then, who can say what new shape our institution may take? was long on conceptualizations and short rience. Indeed, the academic world _ on concrete events; long on analysis, on details; long on abstractions, short short on experience; long on theories, short on stories. I had no desire to get [Lived experience] brings us to a dialectical view of life which emphasizes the rid of concepts, abstractions, analysis, or theory. Like most academics, I know interplay rather than the identity of things, which denies any sure steadying to them as the tools of my trade. It was the imbalance that troubled me-how thought by placing it always within the precarious and destabilizing fields of quickly we turn lives and experiences into texts and concepts (Jackson, 1995). history, biography, and time... It remains skeptical of all efforts to reduce the diversity of experience to timeless categories and determinate theorems, to force Was it possible to create and inhabit a different world of inquiry, one better life to be at the disposal of ideas." (Jackson, 1989, p.2) suited to integrating the academic and the personal selves, which are so alienated from each other by traditional academic practices? Referring to How to encompass in our minds the complexity of some lived moments of philosophers, Richard Rorty (1991) says, "We all hanker after essence and life? You don't do that with theories. You don't do that with a system of ideas. You do it with a story." (Coles, 1989, p.128) share a taste for theory as opposed to narrative. If we did not, we should probably have gone into some other line of work" (p. 71). Certainly, that's the What I remember best about that weekend in Tampa, right after my father prevailing wisdom of the academy. But in the same essay, Rorty recommends died, was how hard I struggled to explain my father to myself. I didn't want a healthy dose of detailed narrative as an antidote to the essentializing to romanticize our family history-it wasn't pretty-but I didn't want to proclivities of social theorists: "Earlier I said that theorists like Heidegger saw demonize it either. Strong as his grip had been on us, we hadn't been narrative as always a second-best, a propeaedeutic to a grasp of something paralyzed by it. His life had been unbearably sad and weary, filled with deeper than the visible detail. Novelists like Orwell and Dickens are inclined disappointments, burdens, and betrayals; but ours had not. We got out of to see theory as always a second-best, never more than a reminder for a prison; he stayed. particular purpose, the purpose of telling a story better. I suggest that the I called my mother and told her I wanted to speak at dad's funeral. Then, history of social change in the modern West shows that the latter conception I locked myself in my office and started to re-create him. It was time to dig of the relation between narrative and theory is the more fruitful" (Rorty, 1991, up the past. Kierkegaard (1959) says, we live forward, but we understand p. 80). backward. To move forward, I felt I had to look behind. I never understood (1966) academic, Webster's New World Dictionary Among the definitions for I my father; never really tried to. For a long time, I was so ashamed of him, I includes "too far from immediate reality; not practical enough; too specula- could scarcely bring myself to admit he was mine. Later on, I had forgiven tive" (p. 7). It's not far-fetched to extrapolate "distanced from reality; remote; him, largely because I hated hating him-hated the kind of person it made mpersonal." How about "disinterested" or "neutral"? (I fantasize printing i me. Now that he was dead, I missed him. Looking in the mirror, I saw his face T-shirts that say, "I'm an academic, I'm neutral.") I had been clothed in this
5 1997 Bochner / NARRATIVE AND THE DIVIDED SELF QUALITATIVE INQUIRY / December 42 6 427 boring, irrelevant, and pathetic. I had no sympathy for the man I feared most. etched onto mine and I realized he would always be there looking back at me. Too often, dad had been a rotten bastard, and if he suffered before I was born, I closed my eyes and remembered: well, that was no reason to take it out on me. Besides, I was too busy learning years old. It's a damp, gray, smoggy, afternoon in Pittsburgh. I'm running 12 I' m to read the signs that tipped off an impending fit of rage-so I could get the down Beechwood Boulevard, hurrying to get home. I glance at my watch as I hell out of the way-to care about whether there was a good explanation for run. It's 6:30. My god, I'm an hour late for dinner, he's going to kill me. What can dad's uncontrollable anger. That I survived the beatings-that all of us I tell him? I know, yes, I'll say the newspapers were late, so I couldn't finish did-was remarkable enough. delivering them on time. I turn onto Northumberland, picking up the pace. But look at me, there's a hole in the knee of my pants from where I fell, and I'm sweaty Hacking (1995) cautions against the impulse to place old actions under and dirty from playing basketball. He's not going to believe me. He'll take one new descriptions: "There is no canonical way to think of our own past. In the look at me and-Wham! I can already feel it. Maybe he won't be home. I can't endless quest for order and structure, we grasp at whatever picture is floating remember, was he working away from home today? Oh, please, please don't be by and put our past into its frame" (p. 89). To say I was abused by my father home. I turn the corner onto Severn Street. I'll be home in another minute; I've got to slow down, catch my breath. I don't see our car, what a relief; then I is to apply a term that was totally outside my interpretive structure as a child. do-Shit! Fear rumbles through my body! I hate that house! I hate him! I tiptoe If the folks in my neighborhood were asked to account for such beatings, I up the steps of the front porch, open the front door gently, and close it quietly can just hear them saying "Abuse? Who knew abuse? We didn't know from behind me. I try to scoot swiftly up the stairs to my room to change my pants, abuse; we knew from discipline." Situating my father's violence within the but before I can move, I hear my mother's voice calling from the kitchen, "Arthur, cultural narrative of child abuse would be an act of "semantic contagion" kept your dinner warm in the oven." I is that you? Where have you been? Before I can answer, he's standing there in front of me, ready to pounce. I (Hacking, 1995, p. 256), endowing my story with meanings that weren't already feel his invincible power-hard, relentless, unforgiving. "Don't lie to me, available at the time these events were lived. Child abuse was not part of the Arthur. You were out playing ball, weren't you?" he asks. conceptual space in which we lived. I never placed myself in the child abuse "No, the papers got there late. I just finished delivering them." narrative, never thought myself a survivor, never considered my father's "Why you lazy, no-good liar, just look at you, you're filthy," he screams in brutality a way of accounting for any of the mistakes I made or misfortunes my face, punching me in the stomach "Mike, stop. You'll hurt him," my mother shouts, grabbing at him, but he I encountered later. Perhaps I was never sufficiently unhappy to need that can't I pulls away and she moves back Doubled over from the force of his punch, story, or perhaps I just couldn't accept the vulnerability it implies. More likely, escape. He's too large; I'm too weak. The room is too small and too cluttered. I'm it never appealed to my appetite for complexity. Yes, I can remember those his prey, cornered in his territory; and the fierce, frenzied look on his face shows beatings vividly, but what is it about me that they explain? I don't know. he won't be denied. Now he moves in for the kill. Unbuckling his belt, he grabs me by the collar with one strong, meaty hand and holds me tightly. Over and As adults, when we are in trouble, disturbed, or unhappy, we may feel a over and over again, he belts me with his strap. "I work like a slave, while you need to look to the past to explain why we cope the way we do. Sometimes play! I'll teach you. You no-good little liar. You'll learn." that can be helpful and many people testify to the usefulness of such memory Later that night, I lay on my bed, licking my wounds and plotting how I could work. Yet, it is also true that child abuse can be parasitic on this need. It can escape this prison. Why hadn't I just kept running, past our house, out of the neighborhood, away from the anger, the fear, the hitting, the hate? What did I smooth the rough edges of an indeterminate past, giving a causal structure do wrong? Okay, I was late for dinner. We always eat at 5:30, except when he's that fills in the gaps, reconstituting our self by weaving memories of the past late, then we wait, no matter how late he is or how hungry we are. But all I really into stories that make sense by appropriating the new ways of talking to reveal did was stop to play, have some fun. Why can't I have fun? the lessons of the past. We say, "Me too, I'm one of them. I was abused," as if we've discovered (or recovered) some new, indisputable truth (Hacking, I opened my eyes and reentered the present. Why? I ask myself. Why did 1995). But if I ask, "Did my father intend to abuse me?" knowing well that he do those things? What made him so violent and impulsive? Where did all the idea of child abuse was not available to him, then the meaning of his that pent-up fury come from? What satisfaction could he possibly have actions becomes considerably less determinate (Hacking, 1995). He operated derived from pounding the flesh of a little boy half his size? After all, the fights under a moral code that it was a father's responsibility to prepare his son for never really changed anything. I didn't learn any lessons, except perhaps to a harsh, cruel, unforgiving world. Had he known that one day his actions make promises and tell lies. Surrounded by the hundreds of books lining the would be called child abuse, would. he have acted that way? Where do we shelves of my office, I searched alone for answers. Quietly, I culled details draw the line between the terms that describe our ways of thinking about the the recesses of my memory, replaying the stories he had told us over and from meanings of one's actions now, and the intentions that motivated one's actions over again when we were children-stories about poverty, abandonment, then? fear, and anti-Semitism. When I was a child, I thought these stories were '
6 Bochner / NARRATIVE AND THE DIVIDED SELF 429 QUALITATIVE INQUIRY / December 1997 428 strength and passion fade, that I realized how vulnerable he was and always had Besides, as I sat there in my office, I wasn't trying to explain myself. I been. My father had to be a man before he could finish being a boy. He was given wanted to explain him. Not many of us ever try to explain our parents, think no time for boyish dreams or adventures. The stark reality of poverty and about why they turned out the way they did. We don't think it necessary to prejudice allowed no opportunity for escape to the distractions of ambitious undertakings... I wish I could have truly understood and empathized with the explain them. We're too absorbed with ourselves. We may use our parents to massive reality of his boyhood. Then, I might have understood why he couldn't explain us, but we don't normally dig much deeper into the past; we don't relax and experience more of the joy of life and living. My father was well worth use ourselves to explain them. caring about and many of us did care for him deeply. I only regret that he found Our family relationships were terribly complicated, and no simple labels our caring so difficult to apprehend as we did his. I can only hope and pray that he knows now that his life was meaningful, that we know he loved us as we love can suffice. My father's abusive, hateful, volatile temper wasn't all that I him, in our own fallible way, and that we recognized the good in him... . Now remembered. My father was also honest, driven, hard-working, and ethical he can rest, secure and in peace. to a fault. He worked too hard-"like a slave," he would say with convic- tion-and when he finished for the day, 7 days a week, he was spent. He had nothing left for us. He was not heroic, just an ordinary, fearful, working man. David Carr (1986) observes that "Coherence seems to be a need imposed A slave to heavy, demanding, largely unrewarding work; uneducated; inse- upon us whether we seek it or not" (p.97). But the sense of coherence that we cure; raised a poor ghetto Jew; my father was afraid of life. He used to say need does not inhere in events themselves. Coherence is an achievement, not proudly, "I ask for nothing from nobody," perhaps because, as Jules Henry a given. This is the work of self-narration: to make a life that seems to be falling (1973) said about such men, "The lava of nothingness boils in his gut" (p.181). apart come together again, by retelling and "restorying" the events of one's He lived beyond the reach of love and may only have felt alive, achieved an life. At certain junctures in life, this narrative challenge can be a terrible intense feeling of selfhood, when he was knocking against someone who struggle, and we do not always succeed. The unity of life, its apparent couldn't hit back. I sometimes think he was only alive physically, his spirit wholeness across time, is simply there-sometimes figure, sometimes ground having been crushed by life's contingencies. My father had no functional (Carr, 1986). When the flow of time is disrupted unexpectedly, the absence of outlet for the desires buried inside him and when they were incited, his a sense of coherence can become a matter of grave concern, and we become powers of resistance were not strong enough to contain the flames-then he acutely aware at such times that the orderly, well-planned life we thought we exploded. The child in him had been submerged by life's contingencies, and were living out has holes in it. At stake are the very integrity and intelligibility when he saw his children expressing the fullness of a child's life, he had to of our selfhood, which rest so tenderly and fallibly on the story we use to link make them suffer the way he must have suffered too. As Alice Miller (1983) birth to life to death (Maclntyre,1981). observes in reference to masculine, parental cruelty, "Without meaning to and My father's sudden death disrupted my sense of continuity. Looking back, without realizing it, the father treat(s) his child just as cruelly as he treats the I saw that one day I had not returned home; instead, I just kept running and child within himself" (p. 95). didn't stop until I was too far away to see the past behind me. Now, the past was in front of me again. I couldn't change what I remembered taking place. I knew that certain things had happened-violent, harmful, unpleasant Standing in front of the congregation of relatives, neighbors, and friends, things-and I could not change that. However, I reinterpreted or reframed I take a deep breath, hoping to stifle the emotion rising to the surface. My the meanings of these events, I was constrained by the events themselves. voice cracks as I begin to speak. They were fixed in my mind, and in my experience, and there was no way to make them vanish. Remaking my father did not mean making him up; there There is no formula for triumphing over life's limitations. Every person's life is were limits to my interpretations. a singular response to the confusion of existence... There is much in a man's life over which he has no control and for which he is not responsible... Some The act of reconstructing the meaning of my father's life was an attempt men are consumed by blows of fate; others find dignity and self-worth by to reclaim my past. I felt a powerful desire to own up to the experiences that accepting hardship and suffering as a normal condition of life and doing their had shaped me-for good or for bad- to revise, interpret, and make sense best to lessen the burden of others... My father would be proud to be remem- out of my family history from the vantage point of my present situation. I bered as a self-made man who stood on his own two feet and planted them firmly on the virtuous ground of duty, hard work, honesty, and integrity. He was a knew there was no getting to the bottom, no transcendental point of view, no modest man of simple tastes. Only his immediate family-and a friend or final truth to be rendered. Remaking my father was not a disinterested mystery to us... My father two-ever got to know him, and sometimes he was a activity. On the contrary, my self-interest was to be served by casting an image could not contain the strains of life he felt inside him, the pain and fear and of my father that would free me from his grip, point me toward the future. insecurity of his childhood. It was only in his last few years, as I watched his
7 QUALITATIVE INQUIRY / December 1997 Bochner / NARRATIVE AND THE DIVIDED SELF 43 0 43: As Crites (1986) observes, no inquiry aimed at recovering the past is ever In 1974, I accepted an appointment as an assistant professor in the Depart conducted in the past: "We appropriate the personal past, in fact, out of the ment of Speech at Temple University. I left as a professor in 1984. I recal packing my office to leave Temple in June 1984. future" (p. 164). In effect, the work of my narrative activity was to restory significant events in my family history into a composition of a continuous life I' m rummaging through old memos and files of minutes of department meet- of experience. This is not to say that my life as lived, in fact, is coherent and ings. I feel sad, but my sadness is not about leaving, it's about the lack of continuous, only that I would find it impossible to make sense of my life connection I feel here. I have one very close friend in the department and another without assuming what Maclntyre (1981) calls the "unity of life," an intelli- friend, a much younger man, who also is packing to leave in the office next to gibility that makes it possible to conceive and evaluate my life as a whole. mine. I look at the 11 names on the list of telephone numbers of the department area faculty, the ones who teach in Rhetoric and Communication. Three of the The eulogy I delivered at my father's funeral brought a sense of closure, people on the list haven't been around all year. At least I haven't seen them. however tentative, to my struggle to make sense of my family history. By this, They're not on sabbatical; it's just, well, they're never here. The other seven have mean it marked the end of this phase of my struggle to fit my family story I been around, but I haven't spoken to two of them in several years. I've exchanged into the larger whole of my life story. I no longer felt I had to hide or deny the pleasantries with some of the others, but I can't recall a single significant validity of the events that I had run from; and I also felt I had achieved a conversation with any of them-ever. I achieved tenure here and was promoted twice, but I would guess that at least two thirds of the faculty never have read deeper understanding of my father's life that broadened the horizon of the anything that I published. Over the years, we've had some big fights in the patterns that connected us. But, the personal sense of continuity I had department and these conflicts have built a huge divide between various factions achieved by refraining my father did not carry over to my academic life. I still in the department. I could tolerate the divisions, but what really bothered me had to deal with my desire to remake my life as a professor. The epiphany of was that we never talked about them. We just let the conflicts simmer quietly my father's death had been a turning point in the conversation between my below the surface. I knew one faculty member who took Valiurn before faculty meetings to make sure his feelings wouldn't boil over. academic self and my ordinary self. Something very personal-my father's Last week, the chair held a. farewell party for me and the colleague who was death-had unintentionally intruded on my public, professional life. Now I leaving. It was a very uncomfortable evening. Were they celebrating our depar- had to confront the challenge of bringing a sense of unity to the divisions ture? More than half the faculty didn't come. The ones who were there really expressed by these inner voices. Adam Phillips (1994) says that we all have didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to say either. They gave me a leather briefcase, a token of their appreciation. Nothing inside it. No farewell speeches. lives inside us competing to be lived; the accidents that happen to most of us I used to say about my chair, "The good thing about him is he leaves me alone." remind us that we are living too few of them. To understand an event in one's So, why should I expect things to be any different? It's hard to know somebody life as an accident that was meant to happen, much like a Freudian slip, to see you always leave alone. And that's just it. They don't know me, and I don't know the course of one's life under the influence of coincidence rather than control, them. and to treat contingency as something not to overcome but to be used is to I didn't know this was what I was signing on for when I agreed to live "the life of the mind." I'm leaving here today, leaving behind 10 years of my sweat give oneself the freedom to take chances (Phillips, 1994). This was my oppor- and labor, and it all feels so empty. What difference would it have made if I had tunity to exercise that freedom, to use this chance to make a different life for never been here at all? myself as a professor. But, to do so would mean to review academic life as I knew it and lived it-to question, evaluate, and critique it as honestly as I The university is filled with professors who are depressed (Tompkins could. I wanted to identify some of the consequences of omitting the personal 1996). I've never considered myself one of them, but I've felt on the edge self from academic practices: that is, how our teaching and writing and fighting against depression a number of times. The experience of depressior feelings of well-being are affected. What do we fear? Whose interests are I' m talking about is not the kind we usually think about. What I'm talking served by our divided self? What would result if we brought these voices into about is institutional depression, a pattern of anxiety, hopelessness, demorali closer contact with each other? zation, isolation, and disharmony that circulates through university life Normally, we don't recognize its institutional form because we take fo] granted the rules under which institutional depression operates, the rules tha Here at the university, the pain lingers. I cannot clear out. It is hard to heal. isolate us from each other while holding us hostage to the satisfaction Because it is hard to heal I must defend myself: close off, grow scar tissue, thicken presumably derived from the model of solitary productivity that govern my hide. Speech becomes guarded. I give up expressiveness. (Gornick, p. 135) university life. When we feel pangs of depression, we normally assign the was shocked, almost from the moment I left Columbia, by how little I missed 1 blame for what we are feeling to powerful others-the administration, the relieved was not to have to plunge, ever again, into that poisonous it, I how chair, the legislature, or some other figure of authority and power over us. It': atmosphere. (Heilbrun,1997, p. 39)
8 Bochner / NARRATIVE AND THE DIVIDED SELF QUALITATIVE INQUIRY / December 1997 433 432 not that they are undeserving of any of the blame. Usually they've earned it. case? Because it helps us maintain the illusion that the academic self hasn't Yet, I wonder what we gain when we take ourselves off the hook and act as been prejudiced by the interests of the ordinary, personal self. When we if our misery is only the result of what they do to us. Then, we don't have to insulate the academic from the personal, we imply that the personal voice is, look at ourselves, look at our own complicity in sustaining the patterns of as Jane Tompkins (1989) observes, "soft-minded, self-indulgent, and unpro- relationship that bind us to norms of isolation, absence, and unwillingness to fessional" (p. 122), whereas the academic voice is exalted as the voice of metacommunicate. Gornick (1996) expresses this relational stance pointedly: reason, objectivity, and rigor. So, we learn to hide our personal self behind a "First you think, It must be them, it can't be me. Then you think, No, it's not veneer of academic' and theoretical detachment, fostering the misconception them, it is me. Getting to the third thought, It's not them, it's not me, it's the that it has no influence, no place, no significance in our work. Yet, it is rare, indeed, to find a productive scholar whose work is unconnected to his or her two of us together-that takes some diving" (p. 122). personal history. If you are a member of a department long enough, you Rose (1990) notes that one of the ironic qualities of university life is that we do not see ourselves as embedded in a strange subculture, our department usually learn the personal story behind each colleague's research interests. within the larger culture of the university; and we do not analyze and Few of us study subjects such as child abuse, addiction, racism, or abortion life, talk with each other about either culture in profoundly self-critical ways. coincidentally Recently, four personal accounts that speak to this issue have been published We pay a steep price for producing texts that sustain the illusion of (Gornick, 1996; Heilbrun, 1997; Krieger, 1997; Richardson, 1997; Tompkins, disinterest and neutrality by keeping the personal voice out. Our work is 1996), all written by women. These accounts testify to the deep despair, underread, undergraduates find many of our publications boring, graduate loneliness, and unhappiness experienced in the institutional lives lived by students say our scholarship is dry and inaccessible, seasoned scholars con- these very accomplished women. Three of these women retired early; the fess they don't finish half of what they start reading, and the public hardly other two have never held a permanent faculty position. The riskiness of this knows we exist (Richardson, 1994). Oh, we've learned to rationalize these responses, but we know in our hearts we would like them to be different. We kind of institutional self-criticism could hardly be more apparent. The fear of risk and retribution associated with struggles to accommodate do a good job of protecting our secrets-hiding our embarrassment-but we difference and change within the existing subcultures of the university goes are troubled by how few of us carry a passion for theory and research into beyond the local circumstances of these women. It is endemic to the norms of our 40s and 50s and 60s and how many of us have lost the excitement and conformity that most of us learn when we are socialized into our discipline liveliness we once had. We've seen the casualties of an alienated workforce (Krieger, 1991; Rose, 1990). As Rose (1990) observes, the way we write is up close, etched on the blank faces of colleagues who caved in, gave up, carefully controlled by our disciplines, which have the power to withhold the stopped caring. This, too, is a moral crisis, an epidemic of institutional rewards of publication to nonconforming texts. This is not so much an issue depression. We turn the other cheek, keep quiet, pretend the moral crisis isn't there, but that doesn't make it disappear. of standards-that is, whether to have standards-but rather a question of which standards to have and whose interests are served by the standards that It's about time we wrestled more openly and collectively with these problems. Instead of hiding the pain many of us feel about the ways we are are accepted and upheld. What is excluded by the rules of conformity that unfulfilled by the life of the mind, we need to muster the courage to speak discipline our writing (and the ones that discipline the patterns of interaction the truth about "the emotional fallout" of a lifetime of teaching and research among colleagues in a department)? (Tompkins, 1996, p.57). We need to face up to the ways we use orthodox These questions bring me back to the split between the academic and personal self. After my father's death, I began receiving sympathy cards from academic practices to discipline, control, and perpetuate ourselves and our people in my field who barely knew me, which reminded me that the split traditions, stifling innovation, discouraging creativity, inhibiting criticism of between the academic and the personal world often is severed. This gave me our own institutional conventions, making it difficult to take risks, and pause to question why it is that you rarely hear anyone talk about their severing academic life from emotional and spiritual life. No matter how much personal lives in the papers they give at conferences, and you seldom see the change may threaten us, we need to consider alternatives-different goals, different styles of research and writing, different ways of bringing the aca- personal self mix with the professional self on the pages of mainstream American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, demic and the personal into conversation with each other. journals such as The desire to bring the personal self into conversation with the academic American Educational Research Journal, Communication Monographs, Communi- because we've Human Communication Research. Obviously, self was the major inspiration for my turn toward a personal narrative or cation Theory, been conditioned to separate the personal and professional domains of expe- approach to inquiry (Bochner, 1994; Bochner, Ellis, & Tillmann-Healy, 1997; rience. It's an essential part of our academic socialization. And why is that the Ellis, 1995; Ellis & Bochner, 1996), an alternative to orthodox social science
9 QUALITATIVE INQUIRY / December 1997 4 43 Bochner / NARRATIVE AND THE DIVIDED SELF 435 that I have been pursuing for much of the past 10 years. Stories ask readers What I want to say now is that there is nothing as theoretical as a good their truth and thus to become fully engaged-morally, aesthetically, feel to story. The split between theory and story is false-and it's not false. It's not emotionally, and intellectually (Richardson, 1994). Stories invite us to enter false when theory is viewed in the terms I used earlier in this article- horizons of the human condition in which lived life is shown as comic, tragic, objective, scientific, detached, value-free, beyond human consciousness. De- and absurd, and in which endless opportunities exist to create a reality and scribed in these terms, theory becomes an end in itself, divorced from its live it (Coles, 1989). consequences, politics, and uses. This is the taken-for-granted sense of theory The narrative approach to qualitative inquiry that I favor privileges the I heard from a colleague at a tenure review hearing, when she observed, "He's story. In our work, (e.g., Ellis & Bochner, 1996) we try to produce texts that published enough, but his work isn't theoretical." It is also the sense of theory show how people breach canonical conventions and expectations; how they promoted by those who see the purpose of communication research, to take cope with exceptional, difficult, and transformative crises; how they invent one representative example, as the development of middle-range (Burleson, new ways of speaking when old ways fail them; and how they turn calamities 1992) or general theories of communication (Berger, 1991), but who do not into gifts. These stories activate subjectivity and compel emotional response consider the ways in which describing or explaining reality is different from (Ellis & Bochner, 1992). They long to be used rather than analyzed, to be told dealing with it. As Rorty (1979) queries, "What is the point?" "What moral is and retold rather than theorized and settled. And they promise the compan- to be drawn from our knowledge of how we and the rest of nature work?" or ionship of intimate detail as a substitute for the loneliness of abstracted facts, "What do we do with ourselves now that we know the laws of our own touching readers where they live and offering details that linger in the mind. behavior?" (p. 383). When we don't ask questions like these, we run the risk of forgetting that theorizing is not an activity devoid of context or conse- quences. Sometimes, the consequences turn out to be wretched. Consider the After my father's death, I struggled -to bring my academic and personal plight of the kin of Europeans killed in the July 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800. worlds closer together. I had yearned to do so for a long time; now I felt I had for Stuck 7 days and nights in uncomfortable hotel rooms in an unfamiliar no choice. Twenty years earlier, I had been drawn to communication studies city, frustrated by the cross-purposes of theory and experience, and bewil- because I thought it could help answer deep and troubling questions about dered by the insensitivity of officials to their emotional trauma, the kin of how to live a meaningful, useful, and ethical life. Somewhere along the way, victims had reached their limits. At a hastily called news conference, a these questions gave way to smaller, more precise, more professional ques- spokesman for the French contingent expressed the feelings shared by many tions. But I found, when I began listening more closely, that students were still in the group: "We don't care about your theories or your examination of coming with many of the same searching questions. They express a lot of the causes of the crash. We want our bodies and we want to go home" concern about how to understand the life that is in and around them. They (paraphrased). want to lead decent and honorable lives, even in the face of the hypocrisy, But there is no split between theory and story when theorizing is conceived sham, and betrayal they've already experienced in life. I know I don't have as a social and communicative activity. This is what I mean when I use the the answers, but I also feel an obligation to help students address the moral social theory. term In the world of social theory, we are less concerned about contradictions they feel, bring their dilemmas out into the realm of public representation and more concerned about communication. We give up the discourse, name the silences, make them discussable issues. What is education illusions of transcendental observation in favor of the possibilities of dialogue if not an intense, probing scrutiny of moral choices and dilemmas (Coles, and collaboration. Social theory works the spaces between history and des- 1989)? What does communication studies (or any of the social sciences) have tiny. The social world is understood as a world of connection, contact, and to offer students if we strip away emotional experience; avoid questions of relationship. It also is a world where consequences, values, politics, and moral moral contradiction; or act as if duties, obligations, desire, and imagination dilemmas are abundant and central. are outside the scope of what we teach because they can't be grasped as hard As social beings, we live storied lives (Rosenwald & Ochberg, 1992). Our data? identities-who we are and what we do--originate in the tales passed down Shortly after I published an essay titled "Theories and Stories" (Bochner, to us and the stories we take on as our own. In this sense, stories constitute 1994), I got calls and letters from concerned colleagues in my field who "our medium of being" (Schafer, 1981). Storytelling is both a method of wanted to know whether I really was opposed to theory (and whether I'd lost knowing-a social practice-and a way of telling about our lives (Richardson, my mind). I tried to explain that I had not juxtaposed stories against theories; 1990). As an academic practice, the approach to narrative inquiry that I take I only wanted to create a space for appreciating the value and uses of stories. changes the activity of theorizing from a process of thinking to one of about This is a good place to revise that explanation.
10 Bochner / NARRATIVE AND THE DIVIDED SELF 436 QUALITATIVE INQUIRY / December 1997 437 Bochner, A., Ellis, C., & Tillmann-Healy, L. (1997). Relationships as stories. In S. Duck thinking with (Frank, 1995). Theory meets story when we think with a story (Ed.), Handbook of personal relationships (pp. 307-324). New York: John Wiley. rather than about it. As Arthur Frank (1995) points out, Brill, A. (Ed.) (1938). The basic writings of Sigmund Freud. New York: Random House. Burleson, B. (1992). Taking communication seriously. Communication Monographs, 59, To think about a story is to reduce it to content and then analyze the con- 79-86. tent... To think with a story is to experience its affecting one's own life and to Carr, D. (1986). Time, Narrative, and History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. find in that effect a certain truth of one's life. (p. 23) Coles, R. (1989). The call of stories: Teaching and the moral imagination. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Thus, we do not turn stories into data to test theoretical propositions. Crites, S. (1986). Storytime: Recollecting the past and projecting the future. In T Sarbin Rather, we link theory to story when we think with a story, trying to stay with Narrative psychology: The storied nature of human conduct (pp. 152-7173). New (Ed.), the story, letting ourselves resonate with the moral dilemmas it may pose, York: Praeger. understanding its ambiguities, examining its contradictions, feeling its nu- Denzin, N. (1992). Symbolic interactionism and cultural studies. Cambridge, MA: ances, letting ourselves become part of the story (Ellis, 1995). We think with Blackwell. a story from the framework of our own lives. We ask what kind of person we Denzin, N. (1997). Whose sociology is it? Comment on Huber. American Journal of are becoming when we take the story in and consider how we can use it for Sociology, 102, 1416-1423. Ellis, C. (1995). Final negotiations: A story of love, loss, and chronic illness. Philadelphia: our own purposes, what ethical directions it points us toward, and what Temple University Press. moral commitments it calls out in us (Coles, 1989). Ellis, C., & Bochner, A. (1992). Telling and performing personal stories: The constraints Narrative ethicists say if it's time to end and you're not sure you've made of choice in abortion. In C. Ellis & M. Flaherty (Eds.), Investigating subjectivity: your point, don't try to explain, just tell another story (Frank, 1995). So, I end Research on lived experience (pp. 79-101). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. with one more story, an aging tale passed down by Gregory Bateson (1979, Ellis, C.,,& Bochner, A. (Eds.). (1996). Composing ethnography: Alternative forms of quali- p. 13). tative writing. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira. Frank, A. (1995). The wounded storyteller: Body, illness, and ethics. 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