Christien Brinkgreve: "The Sense of Stories: The Social and the Psychological Meaning of Storytelling"

Monday, September 30, 2013 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall


Christien Brinkgreve with an introduction by Arlie Hochschild

Life stories are an important source of knowledge but, in mainstream sociology, also a neglected one. One can learn a lot from such stories about life conditions, social relations and the management of emotions. But you can also consider storytelling from another angle: by contemplating why people tell their stories, to whom, in what way and with what effects. Using material from different groups in different settings, I will analyze the different functions of stories: healing, connecting to others, and giving direction to personal life. In organizations story-telling can be a tool of bonding and orientation when traditional structures of hierarchy and control no longer work. In my lecture I will focus on people telling and listening to stories, people who write and read advice columns in magazines, and those who watch TV programs that provide stories that grasp psychological and social processes, thereby shaping what people do and how they feel. My argument is that creating stories is especially important in times of transition when old scripts are losing their grip.

Christien Brinkgreve is Professor of Social Sciences at University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. She studies intimate relations between men and women and between parents and children, the management of emotions, and leadership and authority.  She is the author of many books and for ten years had a column in one of the leading Dutch magazines. Her first book, Margriet is Here to Help: On Feelings, Behavior and Morals in the Netherlands 1938-1978 (with Michel Korzec), is a study of changes in the advice column of a widely read women’s magazine. Her inaugural lecture as Professor in Women Studies (1987), The Burden of Liberation, analyzes the tensions between the ideology of women’s liberation and the daily toil and toll of work and family. She is also the author of By Birth: A study on Social Inheritance (1997, with Bram van Stolk); Early mature and late adult (2004) which examines the porous boundaries between childhood and adulthood; The Eyes of the Others: The Social Sources of Self-knowledge (2009); Light and Shadow: Life Stories of Migrant Women (2010, with Halleh Ghorashi); The Profit of Difference: Masculine and Feminine Qualities of Leadership (2010, with Eric Koenen); The Importance of Emotional capital (Kohnstammlecture 2010). Her most recent book is titled The Longing for Authority: On Freedom, Equality and the Loss of Grip.