Positioning in accounting for redemption and reconciliation

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This article offers an analysis of the discursive practice of reconciliation occasioned in the accounts of former British prisoners of war of their captivity and of other related events of World War II during a reconciliation trip to Japan. The overall aim is to examine ways in which autobiographical accounts about the past, as produced in interviews, constitute relevant identities and membership within social relations. In telling narratives of post-war experiences of reconciliation, the participants account for changes in their lives. I use the term 'narrative of redemption' to describe those narratives in which the participants address the moral sensibility of the problematic status of their wartime past and reconfigure and reformulate the significance of the past in relation to their present position of reconciliation. Adopting positioning theory as a guiding analytic concept, my analysis demonstrates how such talk shapes experiences of reconciliation with a problematic past. I focus on the redemption narrative to uncover the interactional work of positioning with special attention to similar concepts such as footing and reported speech. I discuss, although briefly, implications of applying positioning theory to the work of reconciliation studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-452
Number of pages22
JournalCulture & Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


  • British POWs
  • Discourse analysis
  • Narrative
  • Positioning theory
  • Reconciliation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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