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Historical Narratives: Stories We Live By

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Part of the International and Cultural Psychology book series (ICUP)

Abstract

This chapter will examine the structure and function of historical and cultural narratives that may facilitate the transmission of culture and historical memory across generations. The need for intercultural understanding in a world plagued by intercultural conflict is compelling and profound. Intercultural understanding is a necessary foundation for world peace. The purpose of this inquiry is to examine how intercultural understanding may be enhanced through an understanding of peoples’ history and historical narratives. Historical narratives influence how people see the world and their place in it and the behaviors needed to guide them safely and successfully through it. Numerous scholars have proposed that virtually all human knowledge is based on stories constructed around past experiences. New experiences are interpreted in terms of old stories. The content of story memories depends on whether and how they are told to others, and these reconstituted memories form the basis of the individuals (and communities) remembered self. Stories about experiences and the experiences of others are the fundamental constituents of human memory, knowledge and communication. The experience of significant and traumatic events is transmitted across generations via narratives. These are stories embedded with meaning and explanation. Meaning is an essential human need because we seek and require meaning to maintain a sense of psychological equanimity in the face of the demands of life in an existentially threatening human condition. Narratives are vehicles of meaning. Humans act on the basis of the meaning they attribute to behaviors, situations and events. Therefore, a careful and empathetic (non-judgmental) listening to the narratives of those with who we are in conflict is an essential component of intercultural understanding and world peace. The purpose of this inquiry is to examine how intercultural understanding may be enhanced through an understanding of peoples’ history and historical narratives. Historical narratives influence how people see the world and their place in it and the behaviors needed to guide them safely and successfully through it. The experience of significant and traumatic events is transmitted across generations via narratives. These are stories embedded with meaning and explanation. Meaning is an essential human need because we seek and require meaning to maintain a sense of psychological equanimity in the face of the demands of life in an existentially threatening human condition. Narratives are vehicles of meaning. Humans act on the basis of the meaning they attribute to behaviors, situations and events. Therefore, a careful and empathetic (non-judgmental) listening to the narratives of those with who we are in conflict is an essential component of intercultural understanding and world peace.

Keywords

Historical narratives Heroic narratives Cultural transmission Attributions 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of Hawai‘i at ManoaHonoluluUSA

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