Syncretic Ethnic Identities in Dilemmatic Fields: Constructing and Reconciling Ethnic Differences in Schooling

  • Jan GubeEmail author
Regular Article


This paper integrates dilemmatic field and dialogical self theory to explain ethnic identity as a temporal and cultural construct through shifts in I-positions. The integration of dilemmatic field and dialogical self theory foregrounds the contours of ethnic identity shifts. Such contours emerge in I-positions at multiple contextual levels when a person leverages and transcends supportive and conflicting collective voices, a developmental task representing the negotiation of social criteria in constructing identities. This paper exemplifies how cultural resources—enacted through encounters of cultural differences—contribute to movements in I-positions across institutions that contribute to the reconciliation of an outlier identity. This outlier identity, I propose, is a different but not necessarily a marginalized cultural position. With reference to a participant-produced visually-mediated narrative and thematic analysis, this paper unveils four I-positions mediated by experiences in a schooling trajectory. I conclude by proposing the theoretical implications of these I-positions that link dilemmatic field and dialogical self. I do so by offering clarity to the claim that identities are creative, adaptive, tensioned, transformed and reproduced temporally, thereby underscoring a syncretic I-position in culturally diverse institutional environments.


Dilemmatic field Dialogical self Ethnic identities Ethnic minorities 



I benefited from the feedback on the initial analysis of this paper at the 10th International Conference on the Dialogical Self. I extend a special thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful and constructive comments. I am grateful to the intellectual support of the Intercultural Research Group at The Education University of Hong Kong, particularly Queenie Hon for commenting on a previous draft. My sincere thanks to the University of Tasmania for Tasmania Graduate Research and Tuition Fee Scholarships that supported the collection of data reported in this paper. I am indebted to Danica who had been generous with her time for producing a multimodal narrative that formed the basis of this paper.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Education University of Hong KongHong Kong SARChina

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