, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 1-24

Community Narratives: Tales of Terror and Joy

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Abstract

Inspired by a literary-feminist reading of biblical texts, it is suggested that the mission of community psychology/social science can be understood as a calling to use our tools (research methods, critical analysis and observation, scholarship, social influence) to assist others in the job of turning tales of terror into tales of joy. Such work is the essence of personal and social change. These are not things we can do alone; they require collaboration between us and the people of concern. Applying concepts from narrative theory, including description and critical analysis of community and setting narratives, dominant cultural narratives, and personal stories, we can learn from our own communities and we can use our resources to help make known (perhaps even help to imagine new) tales of joy. Some of these themes are illustrated in three very different contexts: a religious community that has made itself inclusive of gay and lesbian people, a mutual help organization that offers a sense of community and hope for the future to people with a history of serious mental illness, and a public elementary school.