Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster „Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration“

Narrativity and the Scientific Claims of Historical Historiography

Prof. Dr. Gottfried Seebaß, Sonja Ndala


The cultural creation of identity is constituted by a series of narrative genres. Among these genres are also (the scholarship or science of) historiography.  Historiography establishes not only its legitimation as a specific form of identity-creation but also its self-understanding in its claims to scholarship, ultimately grounded in the factual referentiality of its narrations. Yet in historiographical discussions, narrativity and the narrativistic forming of theories are often seen as endangering scientific claims and, in turn, the self-understanding and legitimation of historiography. This project wishes to correct this impression by examining systematically the epistemological and scientific-theoretical consequences of the narrativistic approach in historiographical theory. In the study, the knowledge-constituting role of the historian and his/her culturally-determined position in the present will be highlighted. We will ask as well what implications the presuppositions about theory, worldview or life-world have in prominent realms of historiographical work. In a more detailed manner, we will focus attention on the constituting of historiographical objects and the forming of a conceptual apparatus for describing and clarifying them. This will be done with particular reference to the narrative integration of elemental units in narrative representations of past reality. A particular pressure for rationality and expulsion emerges, as one suspects, through the competition or coexistence of drafts for multiple cultural identity, inside and outside of the respective society to which the historian sees himself/herself as belonging. For in the face of a diversity of potential (narrative) identity-creations, one’s own epistemological presuppositions can no longer be assumed to be self-evident, but they must be constantly scrutinized and justified in a reflective manner. In this way, an agreement on the scientific status of historiography can be made possible with modern narrativistic methods of theory formation.