The framework of studying personal and family stories

  • Dragana Antonijević Department of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
personal and family stories, stories about loss, idioculture of small groups, family folklore, transition periods, Serbia


In this paper I suggest the analytical framework for interpreting personal and family stories about the loss of possessions, riches, job, reputation and status. I find the theoretic foothold in the decades long folkloristic and anthropological studies of personal stories and life histories, then in the concept by Gary Alan Fine, a sociologist and folklorist, about the idioculture of small groups through the discussion of the family folklore, and last in the discussion of the historic, social-economic and ideological context where personal and family losses occur. The incentive for me to deal with this type of stories resides in the fact that they have not been the subject of scientific analysis, neither in the world, nor in our country, except one work by an American folklorist Stanley Brandes from 1975, which served as my inspiration and model. The material for the analysis was collected in the form of term papers written by four generations of ethnology and anthropology third year students, attending the course in Folklore anthropology at the Ethnology and Anthropology Department of the Faculty of Philosophy of Belgrade University. A typology of these stories has been done, and they are divided into two groups with subtypes: stories about personal causes to material ruin, and about faith (destiny) causing the ruin. Further on in the analysis I focused only on the context of the stories with the so-called "pre-destined (faith)" causes of ruin, i.e., on the historic, social-economic and ideological changes in Serbia, which happened during the 20th and at the beginning of the 21st century. The context of the revolutionary takeover of power by the Communists after the World War Two is discussed, as well as the violent dispossession of what was until then private property of many families in Serbia, and transferring that property into state and social possession (the so-called stories about nationalization), and also the specific context of post-Socialist transformation and transition in Serbia during the 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium (the so-called stories about the hybrid transition and the stories about the true transition). The narrative structure of this stories which are different one from the other is perceived. It is concluded in the end that for the narrativization of personal and family stories about material loss and ruin a certain historic distance is needed in order for them to enter the tradition of the family story telling


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How to Cite
Antonijević, Dragana. 2009. “The Framework of Studying Personal and Family Stories”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 4 (1), 13-35.

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