City Research Online

Articulating identities

Ybema, S., Keenoy, T., Oswick, C. , Beverungen, A., Ellis, N. & Sabelis, I. (2009). Articulating identities. Human Relations, 62(3), pp. 299-322. doi: 10.1177/0018726708101904


One symptom of individualism in liquid modernity is the search for 'identity'. Using the five theoretically discrete articles in this special issue as both a 'rich' discursive resource and a point of departure, we develop a supplementary reading of the narratives which appear to inform identity research. We suggest that, while social agents in pursuit of 'identity' draw on a cacophony of discursive sources, it is the varieties of 'self-other' talk which emerge as the critical ingredient in processes of identity formation. The dualities that all such self-other talk articulate can be seen as discursive reflections of the more fundamental relationship between the individual and sociality. In turn, this is seen to refract one of the persistent problems of organizational analysis: the agency-structure issue. In addition, while we argue that deploying a discursive perspective to analyze identity work offers distinctive insights, such an approach carries with it an epistemological consequence. For what the articles also indicate is that in any attempt to delineate the 'identity of identities', researchers need to be aware of not only the reflexivity displayed by social actors constructing 'identity' but also of their own role in 're-authoring' such scripts. We briefly explore the implications of this for identity theory and organizational analysis more generally.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright Sage 2009
Publisher Keywords: Agency, discourse, identity, reflexivity, self, structure
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
SWORD Depositor:
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