Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
While re-listening to recordings of stories from northern New Brunswick, I am always taken by the way the word so punctuates speech. At the beginning of a particular segment in a story, it is used to indicate a response to what went before, to explain why certain events follow other events; but ‘so’ is also sometimes used to end a story, as if to say, “so, make of that what you will”. In the first instance of ‘so’, the narrator is plotting events in an attempt to explain, or even to absolve, the actions of themselves and others. But in the abrupt ‘so’ that ends the story, the narrator implicitly invites the listener’s evaluation of events-as-recalled, and in doing so, acknowledges the open-endedness of discernment and judgement that pervade what Lambek (and others) call ordinary ethics. Attention here is paid to moments of incommensurability between stories that might just open up spaces of hope, if people are willing to suspend judgement for a moment, while being receptive to the stories of others.