Account-giving in the narrative of farming in isiXhosa

Ralehoko, Refilwe Vincent (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2009-03)


The purpose of this study is to examine message production and image restoration in the narratives of isiXhosa-speaking farming communities. According to Gergen (1994), narrative forms – such as the stability narrative, progressive narrative and regressive narrative – are linguistic tools that have important social functions to fulfil. Gergen (1994) further indicates that self-narratives are social processes in which individuals are realised on the personal perspective or experience. The self-narratives used and analysed in this study portray the contemporary, truth-based elements of a well-formed narrative. Narrative accounts are also embedded within social action; they render events socially visible and typically establish expectations for future events because the events of daily life are immersed in narrative. The study starts by laying the foundation for the reasons why human beings tell stories and why stories are so important in people’s daily lives, since most people begin their encounters with stories at childhood. Possibly because of this intimate and long-standing acquaintance with stories from childhood, stories also serve as critical means by which human beings make themselves intelligible within the social world. This study further examines the motivations and conditions for account-giving in isiXhosa. Accounts are similar to narratives and can be retained at the level of private reflections for others to read, to be educated and to learn from and to refer to from time to time. Gergen (1994) considers self-narratives as forms of social accounting or public discourse. In this sense, narratives are conversational resources, their construction open to continuous alteration as interaction progresses. The study elaborates on this phenomenon, especially in the narrative accounts of the various isiXhosa stories that were collected and analysed. What emerges from the analyses is that the individual characters whose stories are told are portrayed as moving through their experience, dealing with some conflict or problem in their lives and, at the same time, searching for a resolution. It also emerges from the collection of these various isiXhosa narratives that they sharpen our understanding of the major stressful situations in each person’s mind and how the individual reasons about the difficulties encountered in life. The narratives prove, in this regard, to be a cultural resource that serves social purposes, such as self-identification, self-justification, self criticism and social solidification. In this sense then, for an account to be true, it has to be goal-orientated and relate to people’s day-to-day lives. The study finds that the social-interactive aspects of account-giving involve severe reproach forms, including personal attacks and derogatory aspects, which elicit defensive reactions resulting in negative interpersonal and emotional consequences.

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