Injured identities, narrative repair

Hilde Lindemann Nelson, Fordham University


I defend the view that a person's identity is injured when a powerful social group views the members of her own, less powerful group as unworthy of full moral respect, and in consequence unjustly prevents her from occupying valuable social roles or entering into desirable relationships that are themselves identity constituting. We may call this harm deprivation of opportunity. Further, a person's identity is injured when she endorses, as a portion of her self-concept, a dominant group's dismissive or exploitative understanding of her group, and in consequence loses or fails to acquire a sense of herself as worthy of full moral respect. We may call this harm infiltrated consciousness. Either injury to the identity constricts the person's ability to exercise her moral agency. I argue that because identities are narratively constituted and narratively injured, they can be narratively repaired. The morally pernicious stories that construct the identity according to the requirements of an abusive power system can be at least partially dislodged and replaced by identity-constituting counterstories that portray group members as fully developed moral agents. I develop the concept of the counterstory: it is a purposive act of moral definition, developed on one's own behalf or on behalf of others. It sets out to resist, to one degree or another, the stories that identify certain groups of people as targets for ill treatment. Its aim is to reidentify such people as competent members of the moral community and so to free their moral agency.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Nelson, Hilde Lindemann, "Injured identities, narrative repair" (2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9964573.