Wolfgang Kraus
University of Munich, Germany

E-mail:w.kraus@lrz.uni-muenchen.de

 

THE CONSTRUCTION OF BELONGING IN POST-MODERN TIMES:
NARRATIVE ACCOUNTS OF JOINING A VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATION AS CONSTRUCTIONS OF SOCIAL SELVES

 

The main focus of this paper is on the consequences of social 'disembedding' (Giddens) for the individual narrative construction of belonging in Western societies. It is argued that individual narratives on social embeddedness can be understood as the situative narrative (re-)constructions of one's social selves, thus closely linking individual narratives and community narratives (Rapaport) of belonging. These accounts, then, reflect the 'positioning strategies' (Langenhove & Harré) by one's selves and by others, i.e. imaginary and real dialogical partners. Based on this model empirical material from an ongoing research project on 'post-traditional ligatures' is analyzed, in which members of various volunteer organizations have been interviewed. The paper discusses, how their passage from non-membership to membership is narratively constructed, which positioning strategies can be found, and how the meaning making process in these narrative accounts can be understood, emphasizing the polyphonous characters of these narratives accounts. Finally, the results are discussed with regard to a sociological 'theory of reflexive modernization' (Ulrich Beck), asking whether the various narrative accounts reflect large scale changes in the construction of belonging in Western societies.