‘Timeless places’ – Narratives about flight, exile and belonging

  • Ruth Wodak University of Vienna, Austria and Lancaster University
Keywords: chronotope, discourse-historical approach, Holocaust, network analysis, refugee, scenic story genre


In this paper, I present some results of an interdisciplinary (psychological, historical, discourse-analytical) research project on narratives of persecution, flight and survival. These stories told by the children (and grandchildren) of Austrian victims of Nazi persecution, all of them left-wing political dissidents and some of them also Jewish, relate to World War II and the Holocaust. In their narratives, the interviewees try to come to terms with the experiences of their parents (and grandparents) and bridge the obvious cognitive dissonance of living in Austria and holding a citizenship which was denied to their elders at a traumatic point of their parents' lives. Firstly, I focus on the narratives as they relate to flight and the loss of citizenship and homes. Secondly, I investigate what it meant - from the children's perspective - to later return to and grow up in the country that had excluded their parents. And thirdly, I reflect on what such stories imply for the present and future and what we can learn from them. In the analysis, I integrate quantitative methods (narrative network analysis and corpus linguistics) with qualitative discourse analysis. Although each story and the related context are of course unique, it is nevertheless worth discussing if specific characteristics of the narratives could be generalised to other contexts in order to illustrate the plights of fleeing refugees and their struggles for survival.

Author Biography

Ruth Wodak, University of Vienna, Austria and Lancaster University

Ruth Wodak is Emerita Distinguished Professor of Discourse Studies at Lancaster University, UK, and affiliated to the University of Vienna. Besides various other prizes, she was awarded the Wittgenstein Prize for Elite Researchers in 1996 and an Honorary Doctorate from University of Örebro in Sweden in 2010. She is past-President of the Societas Linguistica Europaea. In 2008, she was awarded the Kerstin Hesselgren Chair of the Swedish Parliament (at the University of Örebrö). She is member of the British Academy of Social Sciences and member of the Academia Europaea. Recent book publications include Kinder der Rückkehr (co-authored with E. Berger, Springer, 2018); The Routledge Handbook of Language and Politics (co-edited with B. Forchtner, 2017) and The Politics of Fear: What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean (Sage, 2015).


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How to Cite
Wodak, R. (2018). ‘Timeless places’ – Narratives about flight, exile and belonging. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, 13(1-3), 343-367. https://doi.org/10.1558/japl.31863