Last updated: Jan 18, 2008

[Narrative Psychology]

 Theoretical Foundations

 Anthropology, Cultural Psychology, Folklore, & Storytelling


In an afterword to his play "Angels in America," Tony Kushner once wrote, "Marx was right: The smallest divisible human unit is two people, not one; one is a fiction. From such nets of soul societies, the social world, human life springs." --Anna Quindlen, Newsweek, 01/06/03.


Background  ||  Internet  ||  Bibliographical  ||  Theorists


Background Issues

This page deal with narrative as it relates to the general discipline of anthropology, the emerging field of "cultural psychology" (e.g., the work of Michael Cole or Richard Shweder), cross-cultural psychology, the study of folkoric traditions and practices of non-Western cultures, and the general practive of storytelling.

Theorists*Key Figures

Internet Resouces

American Anthropological Association [Arlington, VA]

Anthropology Resources at University of Kent

Excellent and growing set of internet links for materials at U Kent and elsewhere.

Anthropology Resources on the Internet [American Anthropological Association]

Cultural Historical Psychology [U Waterloo] Part 2 of Al Cheyne's Psychology, Culture, & Evolution (paleopsychology) resource page.

Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology

International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology [IACCP Webpage]

Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition [UC San Diego]

"The Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition (LCHC) moved from The Rockefeller University to the University of California, San Diego in 1978. From its inception, the focus of LCHC's theoretical and empirical work has been on the role of culture in shaping human development and human nature. In their publications, LCHC members have described culture as a system of human artifacts that coevolved biologically with our species and that has coevolved with human action both historically and in the present day. Within psychology, the approach adopted by LCHC is variously referred to as cultural-historical psychology, cultural psychology, or a cultural context approach to psychology. It is distinguished from alternative approaches in psychology by its rejection of the idea that "the mind is in the brain". Instead, it treats mind as something distributed among people and their artifacts, including language and social institutions. This approach is also closely linked to social science movements referred to as ecological psychology and activity theory which ground their analyses in the everyday culturally organized activities of people as well as a variety of social science enterprises which fall within the general rubric of socio-cultural studies. Theorists who influence our work include: L. S. Vygotsky, John Dewey, A. R. Luria, A. N. Leontiev, and Cultural-Historical psychologists from other national traditions. " [Statement on LCHC Homepage]

Nijmegen Cultural Psychology Group (NCPG)

Formerly associated with the Department of Social Psychology at the Radboud University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands, the NCPG has now moved into an independent status and is in the midst of reconfiguration.

Carl Ratner Homepage [Humboldt State University]

Society for Psychological Anthropology

Theory in Anthropology [Richard Wilks, Indiana U] Students in a "Proseminar in Sociocultural Anthropology" compiled a set of web pages as guides to subtopics in their area of stury. See, particularly, the pages on

Uysal - Walker Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative (U-W ATON) [Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX]. More than 2300 narratives and conversations across 73 volumes; collected as tape recordings in the field within the Republic of Turkey by Dr. Ahmet Uysal, Dr. Warren Walker and Mrs. Barbara Walker, and now digitized & rendered as pdf files.

What Is Culture? Fundamental Topic resource page [Washington State U. Virtual Campus Learning Commons] Defining culture from a variety of perspectives.

Working in Ghana Project, The [Allan W. Wicker; Claremont Graduate School] "From traditional farmer to member of parliament, men and women from the West African country of Ghana tell what they do in their jobs, and what their work means to them and their families. Expatriates from several continents, including a development agency officer, Peace Corps volunteer, and ethnomusicologist also relate their stories of living and working in Ghana."--site description. Prof. Wicker's research interests in the social psychology of work and culture are reflected here. He offers suggested uses of these narratives for other researchers.

WWW Virtual Library in Anthropology [sponsored by Anthro TECH, L.L.C.]

Folklore and Storytelling

StoryNet: The National Storytelling Network

Bibliographical Resources


Culture & Psychology [Sage Publications]

Edited by Jaan Valsiner (Clark University, Worcester, MA). "Culture & Psychology is an international scholarly journal that emphasizes the dynamic and systemic nature of culture in psychology and psychology in culture. It is a journal in which contributors are expected to make explicit their underlying theory of the systemic functioning of culture in psychological phenomena, which are inherently culture-inclusive. The coverage of issues on culture in psychology is oriented to the constructive interdisciplinary integration of perspectives." (description at site) First volume published in 1995.

Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology [hosted by Case Western Reserve University] Edited by Thomas J. Csordas and Janis H. Jenkins

Mind, Culture, and Activity (MCA) Homepage

Cultural Psychology and Anthropology

Barker, R. B., & Barker, L. S. (1961). Behavioral units for the comparative study of cultures. In B. Kaplan (Ed.), Studying personality cross-culturally (pp. 457-476). New York: Harper and Row.

+Behar, R. (1993). Translated women: Crossing the border with Esperanza's story. Boston, MA: Beacon. [HQ1465.M63.B44 1993]

Berry, J. W., Poortinga, Y. H., Segall, M. H., & Dasen, P. R. (Eds.). (1992). Cross-cultural psychology: Research and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Contemporary summary of the field by a team of editors who themselves represent a range of cultural backgrounds.

Berry, J. W. et al. (Eds.). (1997). Handbook of cross-cultural psychology (2nd ed.). Vols. 1-3. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Boesch, E. E. (2001). Symbolic action theory in cultural psychology. Culture & Psychology, 7, 479-483.

Brewer, M. B., & Gardner, W. (1996). Who is this "We"? Levels of collective identity and self representations. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 71, 83-93.

Chick, G. (2001). Culture-bearing units and the units of culture: An introduction. Cross-Cultural Research, 35(2), 91-108.

Summarizes this issue's focus upon whether there are (and what might be) distinct units of culture across the diverse humanity of the world. These essays were presented at a 1999 session of the Society for Cross-Cultural Research on the topic, Themes, Memes, and Other Schemes: What Are the Units of Culture?

Cole, M. (1996). Cultural psychology: A once and future discipline. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

In this eagerly awaited volume, Cole sets forth the case for a psychological discpline which focuses upon "culture in mind". He searches back to the 19th century's embrace of a dichotomy between psychological study and human culture and advocates a healing of that breach. He examines how a future psychology can put culture at the center of its study and employs a range of contemporary research approaches to illustrate how this can be achieved.

Cole, M., & Engeström, Y. (1995). "Mind, culture, person: Elements in a cultural psychology": Comment. Human Development, 38, 19-24. [Response to Lucariello, 1995, below]

Cole, M., Engeström, Y, & Vasquez, O. (Eds.). (1997). Mind, culture, and activity: Seminal papers from the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition. New York: Cambridge University Press.

"This volume brings together articles from the Quarterly Newsletter of the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition that are important benchmarks in the recent history of research and theory on the cultural and contextual foundations of human development. The central theme of this discussion can be posed as a question: How shall we develop a psychology that takes as its starting point the actions of people participating in routine, culturally organized activities? The discussion is organized in terms of a set of overarching themes of importance to psychologists and other social scientists: the nature of context; experiments as contexts; cultural-historical theories of culture, context, and development; the analysis of classroom settings as a socially important context of development; the psychological analysis of activity in situ; and questions of power and discourse."--taken from frontispiece to volume.

+Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books. [GN315.G36 1973b]

See, particularly, the essays: "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretative Theory of Culture" (Ch. 1), "Religion as a Cultural System" (Ch. 4), and "The Cerebral Savage: On the Work of Claude Lévi-Strauss" (Ch. 13).

+Geertz, C. (1979). From the native's point of view: On the nature of anthropological understanding. In P. Rabinow, & W. M. Sullivan (Eds.), Interpretive social science: A reader (pp. 225-241). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. [H61.I6]

+Geertz, C. (1983). Local knowledge: Further essays in interpretative anthropology. New York: Basic Books. [GN316.G43 1983]

Gergen, K. J., Gulerce, A., Lock, A., & Misra, G. (1996). Psychological science in cultural context. American Psychologist, 51, 496-503.

Authors examine the Western cultural disciplinary creation, psychology, from the viewpoint of experience in India, Turkey, and New Zealand and argue for the need for a dialogue on what sort of psychology is appropriate in non-Western cultural contexts.

Greenfield, P. M. (1997). You can't take it with you: Why ability assessments don't cross cultures. American Psychologist, 52, 1115-1124.

Challenges the notion that instruments of ability measurement, themselves artifactual creations of a particular milieu, can easily cross over cultural divides to assess members of the new culture. Provides a broad range of pitfalls and theoretical considerations for ability testing in cross-cultural contexts.

+Jahoda, G. (1993). Crossroads between culture and mind: Continuities and change in theories of human nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. [GN502.J325 1993]

This very important volume traces the efforts of European theoreticians of the 18th and 19th centuries to understand human nature and how it is affected or defined by "culture," itself a developing concept. The three major sections of this book include (1) "Eighteenth Century Preludes" (the Enlightenment, etc.); (2) "The Positivist Tradition" exploring issues of biology, race, "psychic unity" and the beginnings of a cross-cultural psychology; and (3) "German Idealism and Völkerpsychologie" (leading up to Wundt). Extensive bibliography.

Josephs, I. E. (2002). 'The Hopi in me': The construction of a voice in the dialogical self from a cultural psychological perspective. Theory & Psychology, 12(2), 161-173.

+Lévi-Strauss, C. (1968). Savage mind. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. [GN451.L3813]

Kapchan, D. A. (1995). Performance. Journal of American Folklore, 108, 479-510.

Lucariello, J. (1995). Mind, culture, person: Elements in a cultural psychology. Human Development, 38, 2-18. [Response by Cole & Engestrom (1995) above.]

Pareek, U., & Rao, V., (1980). Cross-cultural surveys and interviewing. In H. C. Triandis, & J. W. Berry (Eds.), Handbook of cross-cultural psychology. Vol. 2. Methodology (pp. 127-179). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Early comprehensive literature review and synthesis of the ways in which cultural differences affect processes of data-collection and interviewing.

Ratner, C. (1997). Cultural psychology and qualitative methodology: Theoretical & empirical considerations, New York: Plenum.

Ratner, C. (2002). Cultural psychology: Theory and method. New York: Plenum.

Rosaldo, R. (1989). Culture and truth: The remaking of social analysis. Boston, MA: Beacon.

Sears, R. (1961). Transcultural variables and conceptual equivalence. In B. Kaplan (Ed.), Studying personality cross-culturally (pp. 445-455). New York: Harper and Row.

Segall, M. H., Lonner, W. J., & Berry, J. W. (1998). Cross-cultural psychology as a scholarly discipine: On the flowering of culture in behavior research. American Psychologist, 53, 1101-1110

Provides a contemporary overview of the field of cross-cultural psychology by three veteran researchers. Includes the historical development and research interests within the discipline.

Shi-xu (2002). The discourse of cultural psychology: Transforming the discourses of self, memory, narrative, and culture. Culture & Psychology, 8, 65-78.

Shore, B. (1988). An introduction to the work of Clifford Geertz. Soundings, 71 (1) 15-27.

Shore, B. (1990). Twice-born, once conceived: Meaning construction and cultural cognition. American Anthropologist, 94 (4), 10-27.

Shore, B. (1996). Culture in mind: Cognition, culture, and the problem of meaning. New York: Oxford University Press. [GN502.S49 1995]

Shweder, R. (1989). Cultural psychology: What is it? In J. Stigler, R. Shweder, & G. Herdt (Eds.), Cultural psychology: The Chicago symposia on culture and development (pp. 1-46). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Shweder, R. A. (1991). Thinking through cultures: Expeditions in cultural psychology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

This excellent collection of Shweder's essays (some written in collaboration) details his understanding of the emergent perspective within anthropology--cultural psychology--for which he has been so eloquent an advocate. Important essays include "Cultural Psychology: What Is It?" (pp. 73-110; also found in Stigler, Shweder, & Herdt, 1990) and "The Social Construction of the Person: How Is It Possible?" (with Joan G. Miller; pp. 156-185). Both his introductory remarks ("The Astonishment of Anthropology) and closing reflections ("Artful Realism") display a deep moral concern for the purposes of scholarship and are communicated with passion and elegance.

Shweder, R. (1995, December). Culture and the challenge of psychic pluralism (Plenary session) (Cassette Recording Nos. GS2-10105-95 ). Address presented at the 39th Winter Meeting of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, Cambridge, MA. [Cassette available from Audio Transcripts, Ltd., 335 South Patrick Street, Suite 220, Alexandria, VA 22314]

Shweder, R. A., & Levine, R. (Eds.). (1984). Culture theory: Essays on mind, self, and emotion. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Singer, M. (1961). A survey of culture and personality theory and research. In B. Kaplan (Ed.), Studying personality cross-culturally (pp. 9-90). New York: Harper and Row.

Singelis,T. M. (Ed.). (1998). Teaching about culture, ethnicity, and diversity: Exercises and Planned Activities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

This pedagogical compendium of 28 activities for use in the classroom is included here because of the crucial importance for psychologists and others to incorporate just such learning experiences in the average undergraduate classroom. Singelis has gathered together an impressive spectrum of exercises outlined by a range of figures committed to cross-cultural and cultural psychological research and training.

Stigler, J. W., Shweder, R. A., & Herdt, G. (Eds.). (1990). Cultural psychology: Essays on comparative human development. New York: Cambridge University Press.

The essays in this seminal collection grew out of two symposia conducted under the auspices of the Committee on Human Development at the University of Chicago in October, 1986 ("Culture and Human Development") and November, 1987 ("Children's Lives in Cultural Context"). Both symposia sought to delineate a newly emerging discipline with roots in anthropology, cultural psychology, and to reflect upon human nature and the processes of human development. In addition to an opening address by anthropologist, Melford E. Spiro, and a closing reflection by psychologist, Kenneth Gergen, the book is structured around the themes of cultural cognition, cultural learning, cultural selves, cultural conceptions of psychoanalysis, and cultural factors in social dominance and identity. Richard Shweder provides a crucial prefatory essay on "Cultural Psychology: What Is It?" (also found in Shweder, 1991, above).

Triandis, H. C., et al. (Eds.). (1980). Handbook of cross-cultural psychology. Vols. 1-6. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Folklore & Storytelling 

Bauman, R. (1977). Verbal art as performance. Rowley, MA: Newbury House Publishers.

Bauman, R. (1986). Story, performance, and event: Contextual studies of oral narrative. New York: Cambridge University Press.

"An analysis of Texan oral narratives that focuses on the significance of their social context. Although the tales are all from Texas, they are considered representative of oral storytelling traditions in their relationships between story, performance and event." (from publisher's blurb) This anthroplogical text is in the series: Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture 10.

Briggs, C. L. (1988). Competence in performance : The creativity of tradition in Mexicano verbal art (Conduct and communications). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Hufford, D. J. (1995). The experience-centered analysis of belief stories. In R. D. Abrahams (Ed.), Fields of folklore: Essays in honor of Kenneth S. Goldstein, pp. 55-89. Bloomington, IN: Trickster Press.

Hufford, M. T. (1992). Chaseworld: Foxhunting and storytelling in the New Jersey Pine Barrens (Publications of the American Folklore Society). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Mills, M. A. (1991). Rhetorics and politics in Afghan traditional storytelling. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Rohrich, L. (1991). Folktales and reality (P. Tokofsky, Transl.). Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press.

Rubin, D. C. (1995). Memory in oral traditions : The cognitive psychology of epic, ballads, and counting-out rhymes. New York: Oxford University Press.

David C. Rubin examines what the study of oral traditions (as exemplified in epic, ballad, and counting-out rhyme) from a cognitive psychological perspective reveals about how human memory works. Rubin singles out three cognitive organizational schemes (theme, imagery, sound pattern) as particularly important foci for an adequate theory of memory retrieval/recall.

Sherzer, J., & Woodbury, A. C. (Eds.). (1987). Native American discourse: Poetics and rhetoric. New York: Cambridge University Press.

"A new perspective on the presentation, philology, analysis and interpretation of oral literature and verbal art is developed through commentaries and analyses of texts from Native American communities." (from publisher's blurb) This anthropological text is published in the series: Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture 13.

Shuman, A. (1986). Storytelling rights: The uses of oral and written texts by urban adolescents. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

"Based on intensive fieldwork in an urban American junior high school, this original study explores the relationship between oral and written texts in everyday life by analyzing tellings and retellings of local events, diaries, writings and discussions." from (from publisher's blurb). This anthropological text is published in the series: Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture 11.

Tonkin, E. (1992). Narrating our pasts: The social construction of oral history. New York: Cambridge University Press.

"This study of the construction and interpretation of oral histories is illustrated through a wide range of examples of memory, narration, and oral tradition. It includes many from Europe and the Americas, with a particular focus on oral histories from the Jlao Kru of Liberia." (from publisher's blurb) This anthropological text is published in the series: Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture 22.

White, G. (1991). Identity through history: Living stories in a Solomon Islands society. New York: Cambridge University Press.

"For people who live in small communities transformed by powerful outside forces, narrative accounts of culture contact and change create images of collective identity through the idiom of shared history. How may we understand the processes that make such accounts compelling for those who tell them? Why do some narratives acquire a kind of mythic status as they are told and retold in a variety of contexts and genres? Identity Through History attempts to explain how identity formation developed among the people of Santa Isabel in the Solomon Islands who were victimized by raiding headhunters in the nineteenth century, and then embraced Christianity around the turn of the century. Making innovative use of work in psychological and historical anthropology, Geoffrey White shows how these significant events were crucial to the community's view of itself in shifting social and political circumstances." (from publisher's blurb) This text is published in the series: Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology 83.

Young, K. G. (1987). Taleworlds and storyrealms: The phenomenology of narrative. Boston, MA: Nartinus Nijhoff.

Go to Top of page

When citing this document, please use this reference:

Hevern, V. W. (2002, July). Narrative Psychology: Internet and Resource Guide [Online]. Syracuse, NY: Author. Available: <>

     Narrative Psychology: Internet and Resource Guide
is copyright © 1996-2002 by Vincent W. Hevern, SJ, all rights reserved.

No portion of this guide may be reproduced or used for commercial or other purposes without the express written consent of the author.