The study of identity in narratives about religious experience


The following article is a result of empirical study conducted in 2017-2018. It is focused on narratives about religious experience, an outstanding intensive experience that individual interprets as a contact with transcendent reality. The object of our study are the ways the subjective reality of religious experience is transmitted into the language of everyday communication.

I have carried out a survey in order to find the respondents that believe they had a religious (mystical) experience. Next step I have conducted eight narrative interviews. For the present comparative analysis I have chosen two interviews from the corpus of collected data. The choice was designated by the respondents’ attitude to religion: an orthodox believer and a non-believer. The aim of the analysis is to compare how the respondents construct the narrative about religious experience and their identity. For this purpose I have examinde the general structure of the narratives; the notions of religious (mystical) experience and repertoires used; the categories connected to identification or opposition to social groups. All the above allows to define the implicit meaning of religious self-identification that respondents articulated.

The analysis of the examples demonstrates that individual religiosity resists the formal categorization. In the analyzed narratives the mystical experience can be described beyond religious context. The respondents give negative evaluation to religious institute and understand religious tradition as a resource that can be used pragmatically along with non-religious repertoires.
pdf (Русский)


Бергер, П. & Лукман, Т. (1995). Социальное конструирование реальности. Трактат по социологии знания. Москва: Медиум.

Bamberg, M. & Georgakopoulou, A. (2008). Small stories as a new perspective in narrative and identity analysis. In Text & Talk, 28 (3), pp. 377–396.

Bucholtz M. & Hall K. (2005). Identity and interaction: a sociocultural linguistic approach. In Discourse Studies, 7 (4-5), pp. 585-614. doi: 10.1177/1461445605054407

Burr, V. (2015). Social Constructionism. London, New York: Routledge.

De Fina, A., & Georgakopoulou, A. (2011). Narrative and identities. In Analyzing Narrative: Discourse and Sociolinguistic Perspectives (pp. 155-190). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139051255.009

Gibbs, G.R. (2014). Analyzing Biographies and Narratives. In Hughes, J. & Goodwin, J. (eds.), Documentary & Archival Research. London: Sage. Retrieved from

Smith, B. (2016). Narrative analysis. In Lyons, E. & Coyle, A. (eds.), Analysing Qualitative Data in Psychology (pp. 202-221). London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Tajfel, H. (1981). Human groups and social categories. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Taves, A. (2009). Religious Experience Reconsidered: A Building Block Approach to the Study of Religion and Other Special Things. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Yamane, D. (2000). Narrative and Religious Experience. In Sociology of Religion, 61 (2), pp. 171–189.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.