Discourse and Identity Construction

  • Michael Bamberg
  • Anna De Fina
  • Deborah Schiffrin


We describe and discuss discursive approaches emerging over the last 50 years that in one way or another have contributed to identity studies. Approaching identities as constructed in and through discourse, we start by differentiating between two competing views of construction: one that moves progressively from existing “capital-D” social discourses to the domain of identity and sense of self and the other working its way up from “small-d” discursive practices to identities and sense of self as emerging in interaction. We take this tension as our point of departure for a discussion of different theoretical and analytical lenses, focusing on how they have emerged as productive tools for theorizing the construction of identity and for doing empirical work. Three dimensions of identity construction are distinguished and highlighted as dilemmatic but deserving prominence in the discursive construction of identity: (a) the navigation of agency in terms of a person-to-world versus a world-to-person directionality; (b) the differentiation between self and other as a way to navigate between uniqueness and a communal sense of belonging and being the same as others; and (c) the navigation of sameness and change across one’s biography or parts thereof. The navigation of these three identity dilemmas is exemplified in the analysis of a stretch of conversational data, in which we bring together different analytic lenses (such as narrative, performative, conversation analytic, and positioning analysis), before concluding this chapter with a brief discussion of some of the merits and potential shortcomings of discursive approaches to identity construction.


Membership Category Discursive Practice Identity Construction Critical Discourse Analysis Small Story 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Bamberg
    • 1
  • Anna De Fina
    • 2
  • Deborah Schiffrin
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyClark UniversityWorcesterUSA
  2. 2.Italian DepartmentGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of LinguisticsGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

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