JOPOL 2(2020)

Narrative Iteration and Place in a Johannesburg Tavern

This article explores how the retelling of a story, or narrative iteration, intersects with place. Data are collected through ethnographic participant observation and consist of a series of seven retellings, and thirteen auxiliary stories. The situation of telling changes from being one-on-one with the researcher to group tellings in a tavern called The Brazen Head in Johannesburg, South Africa. Following Bamberg’s article on twice-told tales (Bamberg 2008), iteration is approached in terms of thematic, structural, interactional and discursive criteria and these criteria serve to compare the series of retellings. Analysis concerns changes in thematic progression, distribution of structural components, spatio-temporal coordinates and changes in interactional positioning. Findings explore how iteration can advance narrative research as this applies to place. The discussion examines how place takes on thematic, material and symbolic dimensions which, in this case, are informed by Orientalism (Said [1978] 2003). This is to say that the participants use the storied setting of the Middle East as a resource, but in so doing discursively construct both the place and the Other.

Keywords: narratives, narrative iteration, place-making, interactional positioning, Orientalism, South Africa