Original Research

Narrative materiality and practice: A study of born-free negotiation of periphery and centre

William Kelleher
Literator | Vol 40, No 1 | a1573 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v40i1.1573 | © 2019 William Kelleher | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 November 2018 | Published: 29 August 2019

About the author(s)

William Kelleher, National Research Foundation Freestanding Postdoctoral Fellow, Unit for Academic Literacy, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


This article explores a small story narrative, the community of practice and the orientations of a group of ‘born-free’ participants as these interact with the material discourses of the Gautrain station in the business district of Sandton in the Gauteng, South Africa. ‘Born frees’ are young people born after the end of Apartheid. They are of interest in social studies because of the enormous demographic, familial and educational changes they represent. The discussion of the article concerns, firstly, the genre of account, and the relation between story and trajectory. Trajectory and the spatial coordinates of the story are introduced to understand what Sandton and its material discourses represent for these participants. The Gautrain station is then approached through geosemiotics. Thirdly, the negotiation of social space implicit in the co-construction of the small story is analysed through axes of intersubjectivity applied to participant orientation and narrativisation. Methodologically, this article follows a new narrative turn that sees narrative as practice. It seeks to introduce materiality to analysis. As storytelling, from this perspective, is embedded within physically co-present texts, signs and representations, the methodology was to map samples of participant talk against a site. This allowed participant stories, isolated using qualitative audio annotation, to be situated in the exact place of their telling, and for analysis to include artefacts of the semiotic landscape, which is to say textual or visual ensembles such as notices, posters and billboards that are displayed in urban public space and that represent a circulation of wider discourses.


Born frees; narrative; small stories; community of practice; trajectory; geosemiotics; axes of intersubjectivity.


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