Born on: September 5, 1999

Title of this web page -->Narrative Methods for Organizational and Communication Research
by David M. Boje, Ph.D.
Purpose: a web resource library of qualitative materials, exercises, and study guides to supplement the (2001) book titled Narrative Methods for Organizational and Communication Research. London: Sage Publications. See Amazon to order book and/or read book review.

Each module on this web site will tackle a different analysis in Narrative Analysis for Management and Communication Research (hereafter NA). Then we situate that analysis in its philosophy of science context - (press here) for summary table.

Readings Index & Abbreviations Explained (All Modules)

  1. NA Narrative Analysis for Management and Communication Research (book) by Boje (2001) the modules that follow are keyed to the chapters of this book.
  2. HQR: Handbook of Qualitative Research by Denzin & Lincoln (can buy the soft cover books; excellent book for background on methods and qualitative philosophies of science).
  3. ES: Ethnostatistics by Gephart (this book transcends all false dichotomies of qualitative and quantitative).
  4. WC: Writing Culture by Clifford & Marcus (optional good for intermediate).
  5. PO: Participant Observation by Spradley (optional good for beginners).
  6. GC: Greening Culture by Herndl & Brown (optional great for very advanced QM writing).
  7. FG: Focus Group text by Krueger (required for Marketing, optional for others).
Background Reading for Introduction Module (bold = required).
  • NM Boje book - Chapter 2 on Grand Narratives

MODULE 2 -  GRAND NARRATIVE (Continued)  - there is a floating menu on your left that takes you between modules or to the top of this one.

Assignment (part 1): (one-page) Present rough draft of your publishable research article (your class project for the term) in a 5-minute talk and give us each your one-page outline to look at. Include a mapping of stories and (themes or characters or places or times). What is your macrostory (grand narrative)? Include in rough-draft (one-page) an abstract, contribution sentence, how many people you will interview (how many follow-ups), validity tests (suitable for qualitative, not quantitative forced onto qualitative - use index of HQR to discover these), and typologies you will be constructing (there is always a typology - is yours emic or etic?). 

Assignment (part 2): (one paragraph) - With reference to the statistical article you reviewed for Ethnostatistics assignments; What grand narrative (s) do you find? Is grand narrative different from paradigm?

Assignment (part 3): (several pages please) - You are getting your graduate education, and somehow your life script is being seduced into studying then living a career within, between or in flight form some grand narrative (s). What grand narrative are you socializing into? As you adopt the characterizations, dialog, plot, rhythms, themes, and enter the spectacle (yes, Aristotle's Poetic elements) of your career among a cluster of grand narratives, what is happening to your voice? Or if not Aristotle, Burke - as you learn to act, in a scene (situation), and become an agent of a grand narrative, learning the agency (tools), enrolling in purpose, how will you be you anymore.  Of if not Aristotle or Burke, perhaps Lyotard, can you dismiss all the grand narratives, and just construct your voice among the dynamic network of local discourses? 

Resource and Provocation - To tweak your interest in the assignment I did two things. First, what follows raises issues about Lyotard's (1979/1984) approach to grand narrative and extends the chapter on Grand Narratives in Boje (NM, 2001). Second, I put a study guide on the web that explores Burke and Goffman's approach to Frame. The Burkean approach is more about Grand Narratives as Sociological and Historical Frames, while the Goffman approach is more about Psychological Frames. As mentioned in the last module Burke dies a version of deconstruction that is different than Derrida or Gephart. In addition, Burke's approach to the framing process is a way to explore how embedded frames stretch to accommodate emerging frames within dialectic (which is also a framing).  

Objective: Please learn to apply concepts such as universalizing, totalizing, essentializing, marginalizing, voicesfoundationalism, progress myth, synchronic and diachronic analysis to a grand narrative (See Boje, 1995, as example). In the last study module (Deconstruction) you learned two types of deconstruction: ( 1) Derrida and (2) Gephart's Ethnostatistics. This is a third way, which deconstructs the universalizing, essentializing, etc. aspects of the grand narrative process. Rather than dismiss all grand narrative, as Lyotard (1979/1984) does, we look at how grand narratives are social constructions with material effects, that compete with other grand narratives (Boje, 2001 NM book). 

In narrative analysis, it is important to recognize the often implicit macrostory that Lyotard calls the "Grand narrative," but not to pretend they do not exist as social constructions, posited by various collectives. Lyotard (1979/1984: xxiv) defines postmodern simply as "incredulity toward metanarratives" or "Grand narratives" Keep in mind this is an extreme position and does not represent all varieties of postmodern theory. It seems to me each Grand narrativist argues that a more traditional narrative such as the Logical Positivism, Imperial Politics and German Idealism of nation states has given way to more contemporary Postindustrial Capitalism and this to the Postmodern Condition Grand narrative. But is this so? Latour counters saying we have never been modern. He favors a more hybridity approach. For example, in the Disney (1995) article I look at the hybridity of premodern, modern, and postmodern, refusing to see premodern or modern as vanquished. Further, in looking at multiplicity, there are competing moderns (e.g. critical versus systemic). 

Defining Grand narrative is not so easy. Lyotard (1979/1984) employs "metanarrative" defined as "implying a philosophy of history … used to legitimate knowledge" (p. xxiv) "Grand narrative" defined as "the hero of knowledge [who] works toward a good ethico-political end - universal peace" (p. xxiv) and "Enlightenment narrative" defined as "a possible unanimity between rational minds" (p. xxiii) interchangeably.

Instead of dismissing the Grand narrative, a (critical postmodern) de-essentializing analysis can be used to juxtapose local stories with an official/sanctioned call it grand narrative. This is what I did in my Disney (Boje, 1995) analysis; let the local marginalized stories dance in dialectic with the official spectacle storytelling. 

In just 82 pages of text, Lyotard (1979/1984) creates a critique of education, a report on knowledge, and a controversial postmodern position, a refusal to admit to the existence of grand narratives, preferring to see instead a 1,000 local stories. Not does Lyotard surrender to science, a non-narrative position; preferring instead to see the most empirical structural equation journal article as just a boring use of story, a rhetoric to legitimate the telling, while denying that narrating is going on in such factual circumstance.  Frederick Jameson in his introduction to Lyotard's book, invokes Guy Debord, the consumer society, the Society of Consumption, as Jameson retitles Debord's work, then invokes Daniel Bell's rendition of postindustrial society, and the Frankfurt School (before and after Habermas) -- this is a move that invokes many grand narratives that Lyotard will then dismiss. For Jameson is critical theorist and postmodernist, critical postmodern (not tossing out all grand narrative, not refusing to see their consequence). 

Lyotard (1979/1984) can be read as an answer to Habermas' dismissal of all postmodern theory; a move I think as absurd as Lyotard's dismissal of grand narrative in order to dismiss Habermas. 

My point - that there are many postmodernisms - Lyotard (and Baudrillard) are radical in assuming we have left behind modernity (systemic and critical) and are just living in the postmodern hyperreal (Baudrillard's 3rd simulacra). We are neither at the end of history nor the end of capitalism; McDonaldization continues to proliferate appropriating postmodern in ironic and high/late modern ways. Less radical positions such as Latour, "we have never been modern" look at the continued hybridity of pre, mod and post, rather than presuming we are now post-something.  The more idealistic postmodern positions posit some kind of ideal chaos organization, some appreciative inquiry into a zone of positivity (in the sense of Marcuse's critique of One Dimensional Man being counter-point to appreciative inquiry refusal to deconstruct - finding it just too negative). Then there are the ideal positions of a postmodern that is an embrace of the progress myth with no look at consequences. Critics err in assuming all postmodern theory is Lyotard; there are many positions.  

The controversial statement. "Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as an incredulity toward metanarratives... But our incredulity is now such that we no longer expect salvation to rise from these inconsistencies [e.g. maximizing performance to get performativity; power that legitimates itself in narrative; social consensus of Habermas' communicative action covering over dissensus and enforced consensus], as did Marx" (p. xxiv, additions mine). Then another version, "The grand narrative has lost its credibility, regardless of what mode of unification it uses, regardless of whether it is a speculative narrative or a narrative of emancipation" (p. 37). 

Out goes Marx and Habermas, as well as Hegel. Lyotard sees postmodern culture (p. 39) coming of age. "This is what the postmodern world is all about" (p. 41); those language games that legitimate performativity (work until you drop to achieve the dream of efficiency to attain progress) are to be left behind so that the game of training elite to guide a nation not towards emancipation but towards pragmatic (panoptic) posts required by institutions becomes a transparent game (p. 48).

There are many contributions by Lyotard (1979/1984) polemic. Performativity is one of my favorites (p. 11). Then there his less extreme position, that grand narratives are breaking up, just disintegrating. What he seems to miss is Deleuze and Guattari's point, the on going trilogy of territorialization, deterritorializaiton, and reterritorialization. In short grand narrating continues, consuming itself. ONe of Lyotard's major contributions is the interplay of science and narrative knowledge, a celebration of storytelling, a network of storytellers telling competing stories (18-21). Narrative legitimates knowledge in games of dialog. Lyotard points out the dark side of the postmodern condition, life of spirit and emancipation in education system replacing teachers by machines, mercntalizaiton of knowledge into cyber data banks. The professor is displaced by a memory bank, networks of databanks to transmit knowledge in the virtual classroom. 

Lyotard seeks to avoid the trap of German idealism (society as the divine life of Spirit) and avoid also the metanarrative of Marxism, the coming great revolution by the workers. He envisions the institution as differing from a conversation in that the conversation always requires supplementary constraints for statements to be declared admissible within its bounds (p. 17). At the same time institution is like a conversations:

the constraints function to filter discursive potentials, interrupting possible connections in the communication networks: there are things that should not be said. They also privilege certain classes of statements (sometimes only one) whose predominance characterizes the discourse of the particular institutions: there are things that should be said, and there are ways of saying them. Thus: orders in the army, prayer in church, denotation in the schools, narration in families, question in philosophy, performativity in businesses. Bureaucratization is the outer limit of this tendency (p. 17).:

This last point has been quite helpful in my own theory work. If we say tossing all grand narrative is extreme, then I think it is possible to look at the narrative middle ground between the grand narrative that are disintegrating and the local stories that have yet to take hold of an institution. For me there are emergent and dissipating narrative frames of institutions, the more bureaucratic narrative frames privileging some statements marginalizing others,  and privileging some to voice and others to be voiceless.

As with Kuhn's many contrary definitions of paradigm, Lyotard presents contrary definitions of postmodern.

What, then, is the postmodern? What place does it or does it not occupy in the vertiginous work of the questions hurled at the rules of image and narration> It is undoubtedly a part of the modern...  A work can become modern only if it is first postmodern. Postmodernism thus understood is not modernism at its end but in the nascent state, and this state is constant (p. 79).

The postmodern would be that which, in the modern, puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself' that which denies the solace of good forms, the consensus of a taste which would make it possible to share collectively the nostalgia for the unattainable; that which searches for new presentation, not in order to enjoy them but in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable (p. 81). 

For more on different postmodern positions (in organization studies), see on line study guide: What is Postmodern?


Lyotard, Jean-Francois (1979/1984). The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Translation from the French by Geoff Bennington & Brian Massumi. foreword by Fredric Jameson. Theory and History of Literature, Volume 10. Minneapolis: Minn: University of Minnesota Press. 

* Means Required

More Material (to explore the postmodern aspects of qualitative methods). Web Resources - Jean-François Lyotard
How to become a postmodern theorist
work through each site till you are an expert -

MODULE - 3. Microstoria Analysis     or (use menu to your left)