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Ebook Information

Other People's Stories

Entitlement Claims and the Critique of Empathy

A critical assessment of collective memories, small world stories, and other allegories of everyday life

In Other People's Stories, Amy Shuman examines the social relations embedded in stories and the complex ethical and social tensions that surround their telling. Drawing on innovative research and contemporary theory, she describes what happens when one person's story becomes another person's source of inspiration, or when entitlement and empathy collide.

The resulting analyses are wonderfully diverse, integrating narrative studies, sociolinguistics, communications, folklore, and ethnographic studies to examine the everyday, conversational stories told by cultural groups including Latinas, Jews, African Americans, Italians, and Puerto Ricans. Shuman offers a nuanced and clear theoretical perspective derived from the Frankfurt school, life history research, disability research, feminist studies, trauma studies, and cultural studies. Without compromising complexity, she makes narrative inquiry accessible to a broad population.

"A major and positively delightful work from one of the most consistently thoughtful, rigorous, engaging, and provocative scholars in the field." --Don Brenneis, past president of the American Anthropological Association

"Empathy for the suffering of other humans is assumed to be one of the grounds for moral action. It is an unexamined assumption. In Other People's Stories, Shuman undertakes a critique of empathy, rooted in the examination of what she calls stories that travel: subversive stories, emancipatory stories, redemptive stories, and that astonishing and quirky new genre: small world stories. The book is bold, philosophically profound, and ethnographically adventurous."--Katharine Young, author of Taleworlds and Storyrealms: The Phenomenology of Narrative

"A fascinating and timely study that offers convincing assessments of the stories and coincidences of everyday life."--Robert Barsky, author of Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent


Amy Shuman is a professor of English, anthropology, and women's studies at the Ohio State University. She is the author of Storytelling Rights: The Uses of Oral and Written Texts Among Urban Adolescents.

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