chapter  4
23 Pages

‘God Can Wait’: Composing Non-Religious Narratives in Secular and Post-Communist Societies

The discourses that people draw on to compose their life stories are not random. Within any culture a range of possible identities will exist for interviewees to use when they compose their life stories or try to make sense of the past. An ideal or desirable identity may reinforce the dominant cultural discourse, just as an alternative identity may contest or subvert it. Of interest to the oral historian is how the interviewee draws on these social discourses to construct a narrative they are comfortable with telling. Of concern in this chapter is ‘the relationship between the narrative produced by the respondent and the culture that informs it’ (Abrams 2010, 66). The discourse of secularisation is a familiar one for the oral history interviewees from all three countries, religious or not. The participants in this project have lived through a series of generational changes in discourses on religion and the secular. Narrators draw on shared meanings and understandings in order to compose their stories. In Abrams’s words, ‘we can only tell and make sense of an experience if we do so in a way that makes sense to others, and therefore we use common or agreed frameworks and discourses to give shape and meaning to our stories’ (Abrams 2010, 66). Narrators tell stories in specific ways in particular contexts. An important consideration when trying to understand stories of the past

is that ‘The discourses of times remembered may be very different from the time within which the memory is being recalled and testified’ (Brown 2001, 115).