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Discourse and Identity

Discourse and Identity

Bethan Benwell
Elizabeth Stokoe
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Discourse and Identity
    Book Description:

    ‘Identity’ is a central organizing feature of our social world. Across the social sciences and humanities, it is increasingly treated as something that is actively and publicly accomplished in discourse. This book defines identity in its broadest sense, in terms of how people display who they are to each other. Each chapter examines a different discursive environment in which people do ‘identity work’: everyday conversation, institutional settings, narrative and stories, commodified contexts, spatial locations, and virtual environments. The authors describe and demonstrate a range of discourse and interaction analytic methods as they are put to use in the study of identity, including ‘performative’ analyses, conversation analysis, membership categorization analysis, critical discourse analysis, narrative analysis, positioning theory, discursive psychology and politeness theory. The book aims to give readers a clear sense of the coherence (or otherwise) of these different approaches, the practical steps taken in analysis, and their situation within broader critical debates. Through the use of detailed and original ‘identity’ case studies in a variety of spoken and written texts in order, the book offers a practical and accessible insight into what the discursive accomplishment of identity actually looks like, and how to go about analyzing it.Features:*Accessible introduction to the study of discourse and identity across a variety of contexts.*Interdisciplinary in scope, the book is relevant to a wide range of courses such as English language and linguistics, psychology, media, cultural studies, gender studies and sociology.*Each chapter includes a critical overview of work in the area, original case studies, practical instruction for analyses, points for further discussion and suggested reading.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-2653-3
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Data: Transcription, Ethics and Anonymisation
    (pp. viii-xii)
  5. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    We start this book, Discourse and Identity, with a stretch of discourse, which has some interesting features with regard to identity. It comes from a television programme, popular in the UK at the time of writing, called ‘What Not To Wear’. In this programme, two fashion ‘experts’ (Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine) teach an unsuspecting member of the public how to dress ‘properly’. The programme’s format involves secret filming of the participant for several weeks beforehand, which the presenters then play back and discuss with her all the bad clothing choices she has made. They teach the participant rules about...

  7. PART I: Approaches

    • CHAPTER 1: Theorising Discourse and Identity
      (pp. 17-47)

      The concept of ‘identity’, according to Taylor (1989 ), was unthinkable before the sixteenth century: the pre-modern, feudal era in Europe. Today, it is a heavily theorised, academic concept that is a paradigmatic product of its historical conditions, formulated and reformulated in strategic ways by the period or movement under which it arises and the preoccupations of its theorists. Early formulations of identity were the rarefied preserve of philosophers; more recently the topic has made unprecedented strides into the popular realm, permeating everyday talk and practices, from self-help literature to the pseudo-therapy of television chat shows. At the time of...

    • CHAPTER 2: Conversational Identities
      (pp. 48-86)

      This chapter contrasts two approaches to the analysis of identity in conversation: performativity and ethnomethodological approaches. We have chosen to focus on just those studies that analyse identity in everyday interaction. This cuts out a large literature based on interview or focus group talk and studies of institutional settings. It is probably fair to say that the majority of discourse-based work analyses identity construction in interviews and focus groups, particularly in the study of gender identity, sexuality and ethnicity. Some of this interviewbased work is discussed in Chapter 4 (Narrative Identities) and Chapter 5 (Commodified Identities). Identity practices in institutional...

    • CHAPTER 3: Institutional Identities
      (pp. 87-128)

      In this chapter, we consider how to define and analyse ‘institutional identities’. This is a less straightforward task than might initially seem the case. Does ‘institutional identity’ refer to fixed, pre-discursive and complementary pair roles, such as ‘doctor and patient’? Does it refer to any identity that is displayed in talk oriented to institutional goals or activities? Is it possible to identify ‘institutionality’ linguistically? Do we need prior knowledge of institutional encounters to understand them?

      We discuss two main approaches to understanding the links between institutions, discourse and identity. Ethnomethodological and conversation analytic (CA) approaches argue that ‘institutionality’ or institutional...

    • CHAPTER 4: Narrative Identities
      (pp. 129-162)

      We begin this chapter with some conversational data, which come from the start of a neighbourhood mediation session. Three neighbours (Henry, Gilbert and Margaret), involved in a dispute about their communal garden, have met with two mediators (Joe and Lucy). The purpose of the meeting is to attempt to resolve the dispute:

      Joe: So do you want to look at, what hasn’t worked with the old agreement? Or do you want to sort of say what has happened since?

      Henry: Well, there’s quite a bit that hasn’t worked really.

      Gilbert: Well, you know what pampas grass is, that razor grass...

  8. PART II: Contexts

    • CHAPTER 5: Commodified Identities
      (pp. 165-203)

      In this chapter, we explore the notion of commodified identity and introduce a series of tools and frameworks by which to analyse its discursive constitution. We pursue four different interpretations of the term ‘commodifi ed identities’:

      1. Identities of consumers (accounts for and practices of consumption).

      2. The process of identity commodification through acts of consumption (How do commercial discourses such as advertisements ‘speak’ to us and engage us with their message?).

      3. Representations of identities in commodified contexts (for example, consumer femininity, commodified ‘laddism’).

      4. Self-commodifying discourses (for example, personal advertisements, job applications/CVs/references, commercial telephone sex lines).

      In order...

    • CHAPTER 6: Spatial Identities
      (pp. 204-242)

      In this chapter, we investigate another aspect of contemporary discourse and identity research: the links between place, space and identity construction. We write against a backdrop of academic theorising about the discursive construction of identity that has recently started to take account of spatial, or place-relevant aspects. In addition to language practices, however, we consider the function of other practices and semiotic domains, such as symbols, embodied movement and gesture, in the production of place/space and identity. In other words, we consider two interrelated themes: (1) place/space as produced in and as a topic of discourse, and (2) place/space as...

    • CHAPTER 7: Virtual Identities
      (pp. 243-279)

      We start this chapter with the following quotation from a public Internet discussion site describing activities of the members of the board:

      We go on coach trips to Narnia and have Mary Poppins round for tea on a regular basis.

      This embodies, in a tongue-in-cheek way, many of the utopian possibilities of virtual identity. In cyberspace, space, time and identity it would seem are no impediment to doing whatever we want to do, or being whomever we wish to be. Identity on the Internet is playful, creative, impressive and limitless, and (so popular discourse would have it) an entirely different...

  9. References
    (pp. 280-304)
  10. Index
    (pp. 305-314)