Atsumi, T., Osaka University, Japan
Are people able to narrate their own experiences? In answering this basic question, a series of qualitative analyses on self-narratives were conducted using volunteer experiences with disaster relief. Volunteers have been involved in disaster relief in Japan since the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Accordingly, organizational and institutional structures such as law have been modified to be suitable for citizen participation in relief efforts (e.g., Atsumi, 2001). Hence, volunteer experiences should differ between the Kobe earthquake and the relief activities of recent disasters. The present study examines written narratives by volunteers after the disaster relief activities of the 1995 Kobe earthquake and the 2000 Tokai flood, and attempts to analyze how experiences were differently narrated between the two cases. It was revealed that common stories were dominant in both relief cases even though the society has drastically changed in the past 5 years. Theoretical analyses have indicated that it is logically impossible for each volunteer to narrate his or her own experiences due to the paradox of self-reference (Asano, 2001). Additionally, self-narratives cannot help relying on dominant stories in society. It is therefore theoretically implied that experiences narrated by the people in question should be considered by referring to dominant stories in a society, especially in terms of research, such as socially constructed motivation (e.g., Atsumi, in press). On the other hand, it is suggested that social planning (e.g., disaster prevention plan) takes into account the dominant stories shared among citizens.