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date: 19 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the ways individuals account for cognitive migrations—significant changes of mind and consciousness that are often expressed as powerful discoveries, transformative experiences, and newly embraced worldviews. It outlines three ideal typical forms of cognitive migration: awakenings, self-actualizations, and ongoing quests. Building on prior approaches to such personal transformations, it develops the notion of cognitive migration to argue the following set of interrelated points. First, cognitive migrations take autobiographical form, which is to say they manifest as the narrative identity work of individuals who undergo them. Second, such narrative identity work provides a reflexive foundation for an individual’s understanding of self and identity in relation to other possible selves and identities—for seeing oneself as a relationally situated character. Third, individuals who articulate cognitive migrations use the plot structure and cultural coding at the root of their narratives to express their allegiance to a new sociomental community. They thereby take on new cognitive norms and identity-defining conventions while rejecting potential alternatives, locating themselves within a broader sociomental field. The spatial metaphor of cognitive migrations draws explicit attention to the broader sociomental field in which such radical changes of mind take place. Finally, such narrative identity work links self-understandings to the often-contested meanings of broadly relevant issues, events, and experiences; when individuals account for their cognitive migrations, they also advance claims that reach well-beyond their personal lives.

Keywords: narrative identity, autobiography, self, cognitive migration, personal transformation, plot, emplotment

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