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four stages in the development of cultural narratives

From X Dell’s “The Grounded Walrus: A Socially Dramatic Epilogue”:

As one of my professors used to tell me, the main difference between psychology and sociology is that the former is retail, the latter wholesale. The stories that societies tell about themselves often reveal the same things as personal stories, but on a mass scale.

Cultural anthropologist Victor Turner coined the term ‘social drama’ to describe the collection of cultural symbols, often propagated through mass media, which expresses who we are as a people. As Fred Fogo put it, social drama describes “…a transcultural phenomenon by which cultures reveal their fundamental tensions, their meaning systems, and their relations to power.”

Social drama theory describes cultural narratives within four stages of their development. The first is the ‘breech’ stage, where something so anomalous has occurred that we’re forced to take notice of it. The second stage, ‘crisis,’ happens when the story, and the import of its meaning, expands to more segments of society. It is here where the conflict over the interpretation of facts and the symbols begins. ‘Redress,’ the third stage, describes the practical means by which we act or react to the anomaly, according to how we interpret it. The last stage, ‘reintegration,’ is the resolution of the crises brought on by the anomalous event and the conflicting meaning it has to various parties. On occasion, reintegration entails the complete acceptance of one view by either a vast majority of the people or through a virtual consensus. Sometimes it involves a compromise between one or more opposing viewpoints. Most times, however, all sides simply acknowledge their disagreement, and propagate their cause, each hoping that someday their efforts will propel their beliefs into the mainstream.


…the facts are usually not in dispute. The dispute lay in what they mean.

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