Shaping History: Narratives of Political Change

Featuring extraordinary personal accounts, this book provides a unique window through which to examine some of the great political changes of our time, and reveals both the potential and the challenge of narrating the political world. Molly Andrews’ novel analysis of the relationship between history and biography presents in-depth case studies of four different countries, offers insights into controversial issues such as the explosion of patriotism in post -9/11 USA; East Germans\' ambivalent reactions to the fall of the Berlin Wall; the pressures on victims to tell certain kinds of stories while testifying before South Africa\'s Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and the lifelong commitment to fight for social justice in England. Each of the case studies explores the implicit political worldviews which individuals impart through the stories they tell about their lives, as well as the wider social and political context which makes some stories more \'tell-able\' than others.

• Accessible study of the relationship between political change and personal stories, with references to academic literature, music, poetry and other forms of cultural expression • Contains original case study material drawn from some of the great political events of our times, based on extensive in-depth interviews • Features cross cultural and narrative research which will interest readers from across the social sciences


1. History, biography and political narratives; 2. Reflections on listening; 3. England: stories of inspiration; 4. The United States: narratives of patriotism; 5. East Germany: the contested story; 6. South Africa: told and untold stories; 7. Questions and endings.


\'An absorbing reflection on the stories told by people involved in key political struggles of recent years. Molly Andrews gives a real sense of the personal and emotional commitment demanded by effective research, as well as by political activism. An essential read for those interested in political change and narrative.\' Jenny Edkins, Professor of International Politics, The University of Wales Aberystwyth

\'Molly Andrews\' reflective essay on political activism draws on her studies over the past twenty years in the UK, East Germany, the United States, and South Africa. Weaving her own life story into her accounts of the developmental trajectories of her informants, she provides a complex and perceptive analysis of what led them to their views, drew them into their movements for justice and peace, and sustained them in their difficult struggles. Her fine-tuned examination of the intersection between personal histories and shifting sociopolitical processes is an important contribution to the expanding area of research on narrative and identity within historical contexts.\' Elliot G. Mishler, Professor of Social Psychology, Harvard Medical School

\'A stunning book that extends narrative theory and research in exciting new directions and counters the tendency to over-individualize the personal narrative. It is accessible, original and gracefully written and makes creative use of case studies with four contrasting sites of social and political change. I can\'t wait to assign the book in sociology courses although it also has relevance for political science and community development studies.\' Catherine Kohler Riessman, Research Professor, Department of Sociology, Boston College

\'In this wonderfully accessible and engaging book Molly Andrews pushes forward our understanding of the nature and formation of political identities. Working with a treasure trove of narratives from Britain, the USA, East Germany and South Africa, collected over two decades, she unpicks the dense connections between biography and history and demonstrates their mutual relation in a most illuminating manner.\' Margaret Wetherell, Director of the ESRC Identities and Social Action Programme, Open University

‘This is an inspiring book. It seamlessly weaves together theory in political science, psychology and sociology with the human stories, gathered in in-depth interviews, of people deeply engaged in important historical conditions and events. The concerns of the interviews range from identity, to commitment to causes and the moral meaning of actions. This is an important scholarly book that is a pleasure to read.’ Ervin Staub, author of The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence (Cambridge, 1992) and The Psychology of Good and Evil: Why Children, Adults, and Groups Help and Harm Others (Cambridge, 2003)

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