This book responds to the ever-growing production and consumption of stories of all kinds in popular and academic cultures. Narrative is a fundamental means whereby we make sense of our own lives and of the world around us, but we are not often aware that we shape our identities and relationships through narrative. Keeping of a traditional diary was always a minority pursuit but all that changed after blogging and social networking: with over 700 million users and growing, Facebook is the biggest but by no means the only truly global platform for the creation and exchange of all kinds of narratives. Digital media and social networking offer us accessible and exciting means for the reading, writing, re-mixing and sharing narrative. This book opens up all of these issues to the reader, while teaching how narrative research is done. Brian Alleyne teaches Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

In the Beginning there was the Social Explorer


Figure 1.1 Chapter Map

Figure 1.1

Key Learning Objectives

  • To survey the use of narrative in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century sociology and anthropology.
  • To introduce work that shows how social realism influenced journalism and policies of social reform in the nineteenth century.
  • To introduce several pioneers in social research who used narrative in their work.


In this first chapter I discuss some of the pioneers of narrative use in the social sciences. Modern sociology and anthropology can be said to have begun as forms of writing. The discoveries, by Europeans it must be stressed, of exotic places and peoples abroad, and of exotic people ‘at home’, were discoveries on paper (Thornton, 1983), by which I mean that these were made ...

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