Narrative Mapping of Social Worlds: The Voice of Experience in Alcoholics Anonymous


Department of Sociology, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1551.


At the threshold of an unfamiliar social world, newcomers may seek knowledgeable or experienced others for orientation, information, and advice. Oldtimers, “pros,” and veterans, in turn, may draw upon their personal experience to offer “narrative maps” of the new psychosocial geography. The prepresentations of reality contained in narrative maps may shape newcomers' decisions, actions, and discourse. Despite their ubiquity and significance, however, narrative maps have received scant attention as a topic of sociological inquiry. The personal narratives in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous provide a rich opportunity to explore how experienced members articulate a version of the past, population, practices, and problems of a new world. The contexts, uses, and consequences of narrative mapping are considered.