“I am a queen”: (Re)fashioning African female identities in everyday storytelling
Awungjia, Ajohche Nkemngu
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This study aims to add to the rich body of work which explores our understanding of identity performances in narratives. It explores how a close knit group of five female friends use narrative structure and strategies to fashion alternative gender identities for themselves as black women who are agentive, and who actively push back against the stereotypes used to judge and evaluate their behavior. Using an interactional approach to narrative and identity (De Fina, 2003; De Fina and Georgakopoulou, 2008, 2012), this study explores how participants, in their everyday conversations, exploit story form and narrative strategies to orient to, constitute, legitimize or resist gender ideologies. Drawing on data which consist of twenty-one hours of naturally occurring casual conversation between the five friends, I identify and group the stories in their conversations, and propose generic structures to describe them: reports, hypothetical stories and projections. With a flexible approach to structure, I show how these stories create a space for the negotiation of difference or for constructing presentations of ‘self’ versus ‘the other’. I argue that through structure and other evaluative devices, praise and blame are ascribed within stories, allowing participants to take certain positions in relation to the themes explored and relevant identity options. I also show the ways in which stories enable the participants to quite literally imagine possibilities for self and others within circumstances that have not and and may never happen. This creates a space for the affirmation of dreams and ambitions, and an exploration of the type of women they see themselves becoming: successful, rich, famous, strong, and admired African women.