Third Space

Narratives and the clash of identities in Disney’s Brother Bear

Andréa Machado de Almeida Mattos

Federal University of Minas Gerais – University of Manitoba


The turn of the millennium has witnessed a renewed interest in narratives and narrative modes of thought and expression (Bruner, 1986). This paper aims to consider this recent interest in narratives, discussing the relationship between narratives and identity construction and/or understanding. The paper tries to embrace a political perspective of identity, discussing the concept both from the point of view of researchers who deal with the issue of narratives or life stories as identity construction and from the point of view of postmodern authors. The paper also discusses the concept of Third Space, as proposed by Bhabha (2000; 2003), using Disney’s Brother Bear as an example.

Keywords: narratives, identity, third space, integratedness, perspective of the other

(…) how impressionable and vulnerable we are
in the face of a story, particularly as children.
(Chimamanda Adichie 2009)


Towards the end of the last century, research in several areas embraced a more qualitative perspective. For this reason, there is a growing interest in what has been called “narrative modes of thought and expression” (Bruner 1986). The so-called “Narrative Turn” (Pinnegar & Daynes 2007) has influenced the humanities and social sciences, and recent research in this methodological paradigm covers a variety of topics from fiction to narrative modes of understanding human experience. This growing interest stemmed from the work of major theorists: the American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842-1910) spoke of two modes of thought, the paradigmatic and the narrative mode. More recently, cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner (1986) referred to “narrative modes of knowledge” and described narratives as stories, dramas, and historical accounts that emphasize human intention and action.

Following this current narrative trend, this paper builds on the theorizations of Bruner and other researchers who approach the narratives or life stories as constitutive of our identities, in order to establish a dialogue with proposals for a postmodern view of the issue of identity (Nicholson 1995, Mohanty 1995, Patton 1995, Mouffe 1995). The paper also attempts to extend this dialogue to a possible relationship with the suggestions of Wilber (2005, 2007) to understand human spirituality (or religion). Finally, the paper discusses the concept of Third Space, as proposed by Bhabha (2000, 2003), through an example from the movie Brother Bear, as a possibility for integratedness (Wilber 2005, 2007).

Narratives and Identities: a reciprocal relationship

Bruner (2002:16) argues that humans have the “capacity to organize and communicate experience in a narrative form.” According to the author, it is through constructing myths and stories, and listening to the stories of others, that we deal with our experience and make sense of our reality. In the author’s view, stories that have a beginning, middle, and an end provide us with models that contextualize the information we process. Narratives and stories are, thus, a way of thinking, a way of organizing human experience. The author says stories can “provide models of the world” (2002:25). According to Bruner (1990, 2002), through narratives we constitute ourselves, and become the person we are, that is, through the stories we are told and the stories we tell, including those about ourselves, we are continuously formed and transformed each day.

Pinnegar and Daynes (2007:4) say that “the story is one if not the fundamental unit that accounts for human experience.” In the view of Clandinin and Rosiek (2007:35),

Human beings have lived out and told stories about that living for as long as we could talk. And then we have talked about the stories we tell for almost as long. These lived and told stories and the talk about the stories are one of the ways that we fill our world with meaning and enlist one another’s assistance in building lives and communities.

The stories and narratives these authors refer to may include a broad range of genres, such as oral or written stories, folk narratives and/or literary narratives, which have been used as objects of studies in many areas, including – but not limited to – education, psychology, history and literature (Pinnegar & Daynes 2007). However, in this text, we will be referring mostly to narratives as personal life stories or stories related to human culture and experience in a more general sense.

As a psychologist interested in how children learn to interact through narratives and how the Self of the child is formed and influenced by listening to and telling stories, Fivush (2013) asserts that “narratives are the way in which individuals make sense of their experiences and create meaning, both for themselves and for their families.” The author states that “as we talk about our experiences, we reinterpret, re-evaluate and reconstruct our experiences” (Fivush 2006a). Barkhuizen (2011:393) agrees when he says that meaning making “accompanies the telling and retelling of stories.” According to him, “in the process of constructing narratives, narrators make sense of their lived experience; they understand it, give it coherence, make connections, and unravel its complexity” (393).

Fivush adds that “narratives are socially constructed ways of understanding what life is and what a person is” (Fivush 2006b) and that they “provide individuals with a way to share another’s perspective on a past event” (Fivush 2011:565). She explains that

Narratives go beyond the simple description of experienced events to provide explanatory models and emotional evaluation of what these events mean for the individual. More specifically, narratives allow us to create a shared reality. In telling the stories of our lives, we're revealing who we are and we are sharing our world view. We do not just tell what happened, we explain how and why these events happened, how we felt about and how we reacted to them and what they mean to us (Fivush 2006b).

Fivush (2011) also argues that “coherent narratives move beyond a simple sequence to provide an explanatory framework for understanding how and why events unfolded as they did.The framework includes intentions, motivations, thoughts, and emotions that create a human texture and context for events” (564). The author adds that “it is through narrating the past with others, through joint reminiscing, that we come to have a sense of ourselves through time” (565). She concludes that  “in a very real way, narratives become the defining expression of our autobiographical memories, memories of our self over time that help to define who we are and how we relate to other people” (Fivush 2013). 

Thus, as Bruner (2002:25) also points out, “sharing common stories creates an interpretive community” that promotes cultural cohesion. Bruner (1990:11) defines culture as “shared symbolic systems” and “traditionalized ways of living and working together.” The author asserts that culture or life scripts (Bernsten & Bohn 2010) is “the major factor in giving form to the minds of those living under its way” (Bruner 1990:12). In his view, culture and the search for meaning shape and guide the changing nature of the human species, and it is through narratives that “the human being achieves (or realizes) the ability not only to mark what is culturally canonical, but to account for deviations that can be incorporated in narrative” (Bruner 1990:68). Narratives and culture are, as such, closely connected in an ongoing dialectic game (Bruner 2002).

The ideas of Bruner (1990, 2002) clearly contradict the “essentialist” conception of the human being, which considers the Self, or our identity, as an essence, something that “preexisted our effort to describe it” (Bruner 1990:99). For Bruner, our Self, our identity, is nothing more than a construction, “a concept created by reflection, a concept constructed much as we construct other concepts” (Bruner 1990:100). Moreover, our Self is constantly created and recreated through our narratives, our life stories (Bruner 2002). Bruner also emphasizes that our identity is “profoundly relational” (2002:86), that is, our Self is also constituted by the Other through our social (inter)relationships. According to Bruner, through our capacity to narrate, “we can produce a selfhood that joins us with others” and which dialectically reflects our culture (2002:86).

Coracini (2007:9) conceives of identity as formed by interdiscourses, which are actually “fragments of multiple discourses that constitute the discursive memory” of the human being, received as inheritance and continuously modified and transformed exactly in our relationships with others, in an intertwined network of interrelationships, at the same time constituting and constituted by our values, beliefs, ideologies and cultures. According to the author, then, these interdiscourses constitute many voices that make up our world view, and dialectically are also formed by it. That’s what makes us, as humans, at the same time similar and different from other human beings. Bruner (2002:85) also refers to our “multiple inner voices”, noting that each of us is fragmented and complex, a whole set of characters at the same time that we are unique in our complexity. Nevertheless, as Coracini (2007:9) shows, “each of us has the illusion of having a [single] identity, invented by the Other and assumed as our own.”

Identity has been defined as “the individual’s psychological relationship to particular social category systems” such as race, gender, ethnicity and class (Frable 1997:140). However, Gomez and White (2010) say that “identity is a multidimensional notion, (…) fluid and complex, particular and socially marked” (1016). Also, Alcoff and Mohanty (2006) assert that identities provide “causal explanations of our social locations in a world that is shaped by such locations, by the way they are distributed and hierarchically organized” (6). According to Gomez and White (2010), our identities are not fixed or single. They suggest that “at different times and in different places, various aspects of our identities may be foregrounded depending on with whom we are interacting” (1016). These authors also add that “our social identity is shaped by how we are perceived within social systems of classification” (1016), such as those suggested by Frable (1997). Gomez and White (2010), thus, conclude that “in this sense, each person’s identity is actually a hybrid of multiple dimensions of a self” (1016).

This non-essentialist perspective on our identity as fragmented, multiple and heterogeneous - hybrid in Homi Bhabha’s term (Rutherford 1990, Chance 2001) - is at the heart of postmodern discussions of identity. It is this postmodern conception of identity that brings new proposals to current political struggles, as it will be discussed in the next section.

Identities in Postmodernity

Western culture, as we know it, is largely based on rationality, on the celebration of the consistency of thought and action, on the appreciation of discipline and order in the name of homogeneity, equality, and inclusion in all possible ways. However, as stated by Coracini (2007), our Western culture, even as it tries to include everyone and to give everyone a desired equality, actually excels in exclusion and inequality. In this context, the so-called struggles for equality have emerged, that is, political struggles for equal rights for all. These struggles were – and still are – fought by identity movements that, according to Nicholson and Seidman (1995:8), “maintained the legacy of modernism [by] naturalizing or essentializing categories of identity.” In other words, these identity movements were based on the conception of identity as an essence, as a single unity. For proponents of these movements, each person has their identity, which is unique, individual, and indivisible. Thus, the black movements, the radical feminist movement, and homosexual movements were born. These movements seek to conquer for their members rights that are denied to them by society in general. Therefore, they exert a political action on behalf of their members, those who share the same identity advocated by the group.

Within a postmodern view of the concept of identity, however, proposals for a broader political action come into play, seeking to transform what may be understood by “political” (Nicholson & Seidman 1995) and “challenging and expanding ideas about how political change can take place” (9). Nevertheless, as Nicholson and Seidman (1995:9) put it, “to transform present understandings of ‘the political’ is not equivalent to abandoning politics altogether.” Rather, it means understanding political action quite differently within a new conception of its goals.

According to Nicholson (1995), the identity struggles that dominated the political landscape of the second half of the twentieth century are based on the idea that the character or personality of a human being emanates from their biological constitution and that the image that each person has of themselves, that is, their identity, cannot escape this “biological determinism” (41). Nicholson goes on, and calls “biological fundamentalism” (42) the position of some authors, particularly feminist theorists of the late twentieth century, or the so-called “second wave” of feminism, who, while “accept[ing] the idea that character is socially formed, (...) do not necessarily reject the idea that biology is the site of character formation” (41). In other words, these second-wave feminist authors share the idea that human identity is formed socially and culturally and that this social and cultural influence generates differences in individual experiences. However, at a very basic level, they also believe that our biological “given” is responsible for certain reactions of individuals to the social and cultural influences, making these reactions constant, even when absolutely different societies and cultures are compared.

Nicholson points out, in relation to the understanding of the meaning of the term “woman”, since she speaks from a feminist point of view – albeit a postmodern one – that the position of these second-wave feminist authors who align themselves with some kind of biological fundamentalism does not take into account the different experiences of different groups of women. In considering that just by being born a “woman”, that is, just by having a biologically female body, all women in the world become equal, in opposition to all that is masculine, biological fundamentalist authors do not consider the contextual social and cultural differences experienced by each woman. Nicholson draws attention to the danger of such a generalization, which stems from a “dualistic” approach (male x female, black x white, rich x poor, etc.) to the issue of identity. Nicholson (1995:43) cites the feminist Elizabeth Spelman (1988) to explain such a dualistic approach to sexism and racism:

[A]ll women are oppressed by sexism; some women are further oppressed by racism. Such an analysis distorts Black women’s experiences of oppression by failing to note important differences between the contexts in which Black women and white women experience sexism.

Nicholson argues that this “tendency to think of sex identity as given, as basic and common cross-culturally, is a very powerful one” (44). However, to the author, this conception is "the product of a belief system specific to modern Western societies" (44). The position that she endorses, however, is exactly the opposite: “that biology cannot be used to ground claims about ‘women’ or ‘men’ transculturally” (49) because, as Nicholson explains, any definition of feminine characteristics as fixed or essential “tends to reflect the perspective of those who make the characterizations” (54), even if these essential characteristics are accepted as socially constructed. For example, the belief that women are more relational than men, or that women are more capable of caring and nourishing, while men are more aggressive and competitive, are, in the author’s view, generalized ideas derived from a Western conception of the meaning of being a woman.

Here we can say that Nicholson (1995) dialogues with Bruner (1990, 2002). When she states that this essentialist characterization of female identity – as opposed to the masculine identity – is a product of modern Western societies, Nicholson assumes, as Bruner does, exactly the opposite view: that our identities are a product of the environment in which we live, narrative constructions that at the same time influence and are influenced by our culture. This becomes clear when Nicholson suggests that

it is time that we explicitly acknowledge that our claims about women are not based on some given reality but emerge from our own places within history and culture; they are political acts that reflect the contexts we emerge out of and the futures we would like to see (Nicholson 1995:63).

Political Action in Postmodernity

Mohanty (1995), Patton (1995) and Mouffe (1995) share this postmodern view of the concept of identity. Mohanty (1995), for example, criticizes the essentialist view of the category “woman”, which overrides the social and historical differences between women and conceives of their experiences as given and individual. For Mohanty, as well as for Nicholson (1995), to define women in terms of the difference, the contrast man / woman, also defines women in terms of their uniformity, that is, equality with all other women, their essence. This view ignores the different historical, cultural and social influences suffered by women in different contexts. Moreover, these theories are based on the essentialist notion of political struggle on the assumption that, universally, every woman suffers from male oppression, and it is that oppression supposedly experienced by women in a universal way that unites them in a “sisterhood”, a “women-only space” (Mohanty 1995:79). However, this conception of universal female oppression, as the author explains, tends to exclude women's experiences that are different from preconceived standards. For the author, it must be acknowledged that “experience of the self, which is often discontinuous and fragmented, must be historicized before it can be generalized into a collective vision” (82). Based on this recognition, Mohanty suggests that, instead of relying on the supposed uniqueness of women’s experience, feminist political struggle must be based on the notion of “coalition”, a notion of political struggle where alliances are made around specific goals, albeit temporary, with different, possibly diverse, interest groups.

Focusing on the struggle for civil rights by excluded minorities, Patton (1995) also favors a “non-essentialist” view of identity. According to her, the essentialist position taken by post-60s identity movements eventually provided conservative reactions to the demands of such groups, which were considered “special privileges”. The author states that,

While the strategy of linking identity, minority, and civil rights was enormously successful in creating a political mass and in achieving more favorable status for at least some of the bodies in resistance, the ability to name and deploy identity did not stay within the control of progressive identity movements. The new right finally acknowledged the identity claims of gays and feminists, but in order to oppose their inclusion in the very civil rights discourse such identities intended to access (239-240).

Patton emphasizes that the main problem of these essentialist identity movements is that they “believed in the promise of inalienable rights, rights which would accrue once [their] status as political subjects were secured” (241). She concludes that the challenge now is to find ways to ensure space for political movements, whether essentialist or not, in a context where the meaning of political rights has completely been re-conceptualized by circumstantial conservative interests. On this issue, Nicholson (1995:24) reminds us that Patton’s (1995) essay “underlines the point that categories of analysis are social constructs whose meanings and consequences shift in different contexts.”

In a similar vein, Mouffe (1995, 2009) argues for a “radical democratic politics.” Her text resonates with Mohanty’s (1995) and Patton’s (1995) ideas discussed above, when she says that

Many feminists believe that, without seeing women as a coherent identity, we cannot ground the possibility of a feminist political movement in which women could unite as women in order to formulate and pursue specific feminist aims. Contrary to this view, I will argue that, for those feminists who are committed to a radical democratic politics, the deconstruction of essential identities should be seen as the necessary condition for an adequate understanding of the variety of social relations where the principles of liberty and equality should apply (Mouffe 1995:317-318).

Mouffe argues that one cannot speak of homogenous categories that oppose the identity of ‘woman’ and ‘man’. Rather, our identities are based on a “multiplicity of social relations in which sexual difference is always constructed in very diverse ways” (319). In this view, it is clear that any interpretation of feminine identity as essence cannot represent all the possibilities of women’s experiences. As stressed by Nicholson and Seidman (1995:28), “there is no ‘woman’ in general, only women who simultaneously occupy particular race, class, sexual or national social positions.” It is the understanding of this multiple, fragmented female identity that will allow us, in Mouffe’s (1995) view, to construct political actions around the notion of a “collective political identity articulated through the principle of democratic equivalence” (325), which does not eliminate difference, but which become “a ‘we’ as radical democratic citizens” (325).

Towards Integrated Political Action

Mohanty (1995) and Mouffe (1995, 2009) propose that political action of identity movements should be extended beyond the limits established by the essentialist conception of identity in pursuit of broader objectives, and in coalition, even if only temporarily, with diverse interest groups. These suggestions align with Wilber’s (2005, 2007) suggestion for an integral approach to spirituality, a model which, he says, is comprehensive and inclusive, establishing a radically new role for spirituality and for religion in this new millennium.

The author draws firstly on Carol Gilligan’s book In a Different Voice, which states that men and women think differently. For Wilber, Gilligan is often misunderstood, when her ideas are summarized as: “men reason using a logic of rights, justice and autonomy; but women reason using a logic of care, relationship, and responsibility” (Wilber 2005:7). According to Wilber’s view, Gilligan noted that, although women tend to be more relational in thinking – as opposed to hierarchical male thinking – “both men and women develop through three or four ‘hierarchical stages’” (7). These stages, according to Wilber (2005, 2007), are called egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric, and integral. In the first stage, egocentric, human morality would be entirely centered on the Self. In the second stage, the moral thinking of the human being expands, focusing on “us”, and goes on to include those who are considered part of our group, our tribe or nation, hence this stage is called ethnocentric. In stage three, or worldcentric, the notion of human identity again expands and includes, then, “we all” or “all humans (or even all sentient beings)” (Wilber 2007:26). In the fourth stage, integral, the human notion of identity would be indefinitely expanded to the entire universe, hence its integratedness.

Thus, integratedness, for the author, means understanding human identity as integral to/with the whole universe. It is such integratedness, Wilber (2005, 2007) suggests, that would be necessary for the political struggle of identity movements, as suggested by Mohanty (1995), Patton (1995) and Mouffe (1995), to stop pursuing essentialist goals and to achieve a new stage - integrated - in which “jointly constructed and contingent goals can coexist with differences” (Nicholson & Seidman 1995:12). Thus, instead of struggling for goals that benefit the “women”, or the “black”, or the “homosexuals”, understood as a defined set of essential features, these movements would try to form temporary alliances around explicit common goals.

For this to become possible, it is necessary to understand the demands of identity movements, in relation to their location and cultural context, in terms of a new notion of space. As noted by Soja (1996:1), “we are, and always have been, intrinsically spatial beings, active participants in the social construction of our embracing spatialities.” However, the author also points out that the notion of spatiality has been “relatively peripheral” in the human sciences. For Soja, even among theorists who assume a “more critical and politically committed perspective” (2), human social events, be they individual or collective, are always approached from only two points of view: the temporal or historical dimension and the social or sociological dimension. Soja does not intend to underestimate the importance of these two dimensions to the theorizing and practice of the human sciences, but he wants to highlight the “simultaneity and interwoven complexity of the social, the historical, and the spatial, their inseparability and interdependence (...) which begins to lead to major revisions in how we study history and society” (3).

Soja (1996) introduces, then, the notion of “Third Space” as being, in a broad sense, “a constantly shifting and changing milieu of ideas, events, appearances and meanings” (2). It is in this space that we can imagine the development of integrated perspectives (Wilber 2005, 2007) of political action for identity movements. As Soja (1996:5) defines, Third Space is

(…) a space of extraordinary openness, a place of critical exchange where the geographical imagination can be expanded to encompass a multiplicity of perspectives that have heretofore been considered by the epistemological referees to be incompatible, uncombinable. It is a space where issues of race, class, and gender can be addressed simultaneously without privileging one over the other (...).

Bhabha (2000) also discusses a form of third space, hybrid and radical, which for him is the space of political resistance of oppressed minorities, in opposition to dominant cultural practices. Third space is, thus, both for Soja (1996) and Bhabha (2000, 2003), a marginal space, for contact or translation between cultures or identities. It is the space where new forms of action and interpretation are developed, where an understanding of the hybrid nature of cross-cultural exchanges is achieved (Bhabha 2000).

This new perspective can only be made possible through an understanding and acceptance of the perspective of the “other”. However, as Rubem Alves (2004:28) asserts remembering Nietzsche, “no one can take from things, including books, more than what one already knows.” Caetano Veloso, a famous Brazilian song writer and singer, also expresses this position in the song Sampa, written in 1978 in honor of the city of São Paulo:

“When I stared at you face to face
I didn’t see my face
(...) / for Narcissus, if it is not a mirror, it is ugly (...)”[1]

In these verses, Caetano Veloso teaches us what we already know but refuse to admit: we consider “ugly” all that is strange or unknown. Therefore, we reject and exclude the “other”, whoever is strange or different. Third space, as suggested by Soja (1996) and Bhabha (2000, 2003), would allow us to understand the perspective of the “other”, as it is the space where our perspective merges with the perspective of the “other”, and it becomes impossible to distinguish them.

The animated movie Brother Bear, released by Walt Disney Pictures in 2003, provides a striking example of this singular moment, experienced by a boy who, as described in the film, “became a man as he turned into a bear.” According to information given in the beginning of the film, the story is based on ancient myths from the region of Alaska and tells the adventures of Kenai, “a young impulsive boy who is turned into a bear [and] who, while trying to regain his human body, learns important life lessons and experiences the world from new perspectives.”

In the film, Kenai and his brothers – Sitka and Denahi – play and fish salmon in the icy waters of the river near the village where they live. Kenai is about to go through a ritual that will make him a “man” – Kenai will receive a sacred totem, a necklace in the shape of an animal. The particular animal it represents symbolizes what he must achieve to call himself a man. A bear approaches the village and steals the salmon that the brothers had caught. The brothers pursue the bear, but Sitka, the oldest of the brothers, is killed in a fight with the animal. Kenai decides to take revenge. He goes after the animal and manages to kill it, in a violent struggle at the top of a mountain. After that, Kenai is transformed into a bear in a ritual of transcendental magic. Kenai then meets Koda, a bear cub who is lost and is trying to find his mother. The two set off together, looking for a place where, according to Koda, there would be a large gathering of bears, the Annual Salmon Run. Once there, Kenai, Koda and the other bears gather around a fire in the evening to share stories of their experiences. It is then that Kenai, in the form of a bear, listens to Koda tell his story: from the moment when “three monsters armed up to their teeth” chase his mother, who hides him in a bush and flees in the opposite direction, attracting the monsters behind herself, up to the moment when his mother falls into the icy river and disappears.

Koda thinks he and his mother have just lost track of each other and believes she will come back to find him. As he listens to Koda’s story, however, Kenai remembers the fight between his brother Sitka and the bear – who, now he realizes, is in fact Koda’s mother. He also remembers when Sitka, already exhausted, triggered an avalanche on the mountain to kill the bear and thus save his younger brothers (Kenai and Denahi). Denahi and Kenai in vain search the river for Sitka, who had also fallen with the avalanche. Kenai remembers his own fight with the bear and how he had killed it. As he listens to this story – Koda’s story – Kenai realizes that, for the bears, humans are as monstrous as bears are for humans. What is striking here is that Kenai realizes this from the perspective of the bears, since he had been transformed into a bear.

In that singular moment, the identities of Kenai-human and Kenai-bear are merged and Kenai perceives himself as multiple and hybrid. What’s more, he realizes how Koda and himself, bear and human, are so similar, however different they may look. It is from this moment on, from the creation of this third space of perception, that Kenai better understands Koda’s perspective and his own identity, at the same time so different and so similar to his own image.

Through this example, we see how it is possible to understand ourselves by understanding the other. As Ricoeur pointed out back in the 70s, in his essay on the conflict of interpretations, “the function of interpretation is to match the understanding of the other – and of their signs in multiple cultures – and the understanding of the self” (Ricoeur, 1978, p. 45). Thus, for Ricoeur, when we interpret, what we pursue, through the understanding of the other, is the expansion of our own understanding of ourselves.

In this sense, third space, as Soja (1996) and Bhabha (2000, 2003) propose, is the space that we should seek to achieve if we are to understand both our own perspectives and the perspectives of the “other”, from the point of view of multiplicity, hybridity and coalition, as suggested by the authors discussed in this paper. It is this so-called postmodern view which will allow us to advance in political struggle, in search of that much longed integrated thinking and of elements that help us better understand our daily involvement in community life in all contexts, and to determine a desirable level of social commitment. As stated by Rabin (2009:189),

The key to becoming an active advocate for justice is realizing that every single person is diminished by social injustice. It is not others that we are advocating for, it is ourselves. We are advocating for our very humanity in celebrating the diversity that is life. Otherwise we are limited by only being comfortable with those who most closely resemble us. Everyone else becomes “the other” and eludes our comfort zone. We have a clear choice. We can advocate for diversity in our everyday lives or we can live in the endless sameness of our own small familiar space.

Third space is a window to expand “our own small familiar space” (Rabin 2009) and integrate with the universe.


Research for this paper was supported in part by the Canada Research Chairs program and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) partnership development grant, during my post-doctoral appointment at the Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies, directed by Dr. Diana Brydon, at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Canada. I am grateful for the blind-reviewers' comments on previous versions of this paper. I would also like to thank Dr. Lynn Mario Menezes de Souza, University of São Paulo, for introducing me to Post-colonial studies and the concept of Third Space. A previous version of this paper was published in Portuguese, in 2010, in the journal Educação & Sociedade, v. 31, n. 111, p. 587-602, available from


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About the Author

Andréa M. A. Mattos is a professor of English and Applied Linguistics at undergraduate and graduate levels in the School of Languages and Linguistics at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, in Brazil. Last year, she was a post-doc fellow at the Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies, at the University of Manitoba, Canada. She holds a M.A. in Applied Linguistics and a PhD in Linguistic Studies. She has published several academic papers and book chapters both in her home country and abroad and is the editor of Narratives on Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Perspective, published by Palgrave in 2009. Her main interests are in the broad areas of narrative research, teacher education, and critical literacy, specializing in language teacher education, globalization and citizenship.

Author’s Address

Andréa Machado de Almeida Mattos
Federal University of Minas Gerais
School of Languages and Liguistics
Av. Antonio Carlos, 6627
Belo Horionte - MG, Brazil

[1] My translation, from the original song in Portuguese: “Quando eu te encarei frente a frente / não vi o meu rosto / (...) É que Narciso acha feio / o que não é espelho”