The unlived life is worth examining: nothings and nobodies behind the scenes

Scott, Susie (2020) The unlived life is worth examining: nothings and nobodies behind the scenes. Symbolic Interaction, 43 (1). pp. 156-180. ISSN 0195-6086

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This paper explores how people talk about the things that have not happened in their lives. I argue that we can perform reverse biographical identity work upon our unmade selves by exploring the meanings of unlived, non‐experience. Challenging one's own rehearsed life story is an act of narrative self‐transgression, involving negative responsibility assumption. Drawing on my symbolic interactionist theory of “nothing,” I consider how negative social phenomena (no‐things, no‐bodies, and non‐events) are interactively accomplished and retrospectively made sense of in personal accounts. Themes of lost opportunities, silence, invisibility, and emptiness emerge from an analysis of twenty‐seven stories. These tales reveal a mixture of emotions: not only sadness, stigma, shame, and regret, but also relief, pride, acceptance, and gratitude. Narratives of nothing are often ambivalent in tone, reflecting the complexity of storied life behind the scenes.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: Susie Scott
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2019 10:16
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2020 11:30

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