Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 October 2010
To possess something is an unpredictable combination of the following: to have, to own, to know, or to control. Land, stories, resources, equanimity, and loyalty are all examples of materially incommensurate things a person might possess. Even without material wealth, for example, one might be said to be in possession of a wicked sense of humor or a good memory or despite all else, one's own life story. Possessing one's own life story, however, is not a given. Thinking of one's life as a story, as something that can be narrated, involves social processes and conventions operative well beyond individual processes of reflection or experience. Narrating one's life, then, is to situate oneself and to be situated in dialogue with society.1 As such, whether one's narrative is consensual with or contradictory to social norms, such narration signals possession of shared structures of possibility, including normative understandings of history, memory, knowledge, and truth. To narrate one's life is not just an issue of how, but also a matter of if.