The interplay between professional identities and age, gender and ethnicity
  • ISSN 1018-2101
  • E-ISSN: 2406-4238


Over the last decade, using interviews to analyse identity construction has been gaining in popularity (de Fina 2003; Johnson 2006; Baynham 2011) and, given this interest, analysing identities has become a much debated issue that is being approached from various angles. Regarding interviews as interaction between the interviewee and interviewer, and stories in the interviews as emerging from interactional dynamics (de Fina 2009), this paper draws attention to the emergence of identity at different levels. First, identities emerge at the level of the interview narrative, which is ongoing talk as it evolves in real time and consists of reporting facts, giving opinions on, and explaining aspects of, various topics to the interviewer. Second, identities emerge in stories which are included in the ongoing talk. Stories refer to actions in the past, usually told in chronological order. In contrast to interview narratives which are initiated by the interviewer, stories in interviews are primarily instigated by the interviewees to further support their identity co-construction in the interview setting. The interview setting is thus the third level of identity construction in interviews. By applying the framework of identities occurring at different levels in interviews and Positioning Theory (Harré and van Langenhove 1999), this paper analyses the construction of professional gender identities in the workplace, the interplay between these identities, and the dependence of these constructions on the ‘interview as context’. The stories themselves reveal how, in the workplace, there may be a conflict between professional and gender identities. More specifically such stories make visible the way in which interviewees construct their professional identities in order to resist gender identities that are projected onto them.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Ainsworth-Vaughan, N.
    (1992) Topic transitions in physician-patient interviews: Power, gender and discourse change. Language in Society21: 409–426. doi: 10.1017/S0047404500015505
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0047404500015505 [Google Scholar]
  2. Alvesson, M.
    (1998) Gender relations and identity at work: A case study of masculinities and femininities in an advertising agency. Human Relations51.8: 969–1005.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. (2003) Beyond neopositivists, romantics, and localists: A reflexive approach to interviews in organizational research. Academy of Management Review28.1: 13–33.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Angouri, J.
    (2011) ‘We are a masculine profession…’: Constructing gender identities in a consortium of two multinational engineering companies. Gender and Language5.2: 373–403. doi: 10.1558/genl.v5i2.373
    https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v5i2.373 [Google Scholar]
  5. Anzaldúa, G.
    (ed.) (1990) Borderlands/La Frontera: The new mestiza. San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Bamberg, M.
    (1997) Critical personalism, language and development. Theory & Psychology10.6: 749–767. doi: 10.1177/0959354300106003
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0959354300106003 [Google Scholar]
  7. (2004) ‘I know it may sound mean to say this, but we couldn’t really care less about her anyway’: Form and functions of “Slut Bashing” in male identity constructions in 15-year-olds. Human Development47: 331–353. doi: 10.1159/000081036
    https://doi.org/10.1159/000081036 [Google Scholar]
  8. Baxter, J.
    (2003) Positioning Gender in Discourse: A Feminist Methodology. Basingstoke: Palgrave. doi: 10.1057/9780230501263
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9780230501263 [Google Scholar]
  9. Baynham, M.
    (2011) Stance, positioning, and alignment in narratives of professional experience. Language in Society40: 63–74. doi: 10.1017/S0047404510000898
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0047404510000898 [Google Scholar]
  10. Bucholtz, M.
    (1999) Bad examples: Transgression and progress in language and gender studies. In M. Bucholtz , A.C. Liang , and L.A. Sutton (eds.), Reinventing Identities: The Gendered Self in Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.3–24.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Butler, J.
    (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Cameron, D.
    (1996) The Language-gender interface: Challenging co-optation. In V. Bergvall , J. Bing , and A. Freed (eds.), Rethinking Language and Gender Research: Theory and Practice. London: Longman, pp.31–53.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Coates, J.
    (1996) Women talk. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. (1997) Competing discourses of femininity. In H. Kotthoff , and R. Wodak (eds.), Communicating Gender in Context. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp.285–313. doi: 10.1075/pbns.42.14coa
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.42.14coa [Google Scholar]
  15. (2003) Men talk. Oxford: Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9780470755617
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470755617 [Google Scholar]
  16. De Fina, A.
    (2003) Identity in Narrative: A Study of Immigrant Discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. doi: 10.1075/sin.3
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/sin.3 [Google Scholar]
  17. (2009) Narratives in interview - The case of accounts: For an interactional approach to narrative genres. Narrative Inquiry19.2: 233–258. doi: 10.1075/ni.19.2.03def
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/ni.19.2.03def [Google Scholar]
  18. De Fina, A. , and A. Georgakopoulou
    (2008) Analysing narratives as practices. Qualitative Research8: 379–387. doi: 10.1177/1468794106093634
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794106093634 [Google Scholar]
  19. Dyer, J. , and D. Keller-Cohen
    (2000) The discursive construction of professional self through narratives of personal experience. Discourse Studies2.3: 283–304. doi: 10.1177/1461445600002003002
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1461445600002003002 [Google Scholar]
  20. Edelsky, C.
    (1981) Who’s got the floor?Language in Society10: 383–421. doi: 10.1017/S004740450000885X
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S004740450000885X [Google Scholar]
  21. Fairclough, N.
    (1992) Discourse and Social Change. London: Polity.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. (2001) Language and Power. 2nd ed. Harlow: Pearson.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Firth, J.R.
    (1957) Papers in Linguistics. 1930–1951. London: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Giddens, A.
    (1991) Modernity and self-identity.Self and society in the late modern age. Cornwall: Polity Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Georgakopoulou, A.
    (2000) Analytical positioning vis-à-vis narrative positioning. Narrative Inquiry10.1: 185–190. doi: 10.1075/ni.10.1.12geo
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ni.10.1.12geo [Google Scholar]
  26. Goodwin, M.H.
    (1997) Towards families of stories in context. Journal of Narrative and Life History7.1-4: 107–112.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Grødeland, Å.B.
    (2006) Public perceptions of non-governmental organisations in Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Macedonia. Communist and Post-Communist Studies39: 221–246. doi: 10.1016/j.postcomstud.2006.03.002
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.postcomstud.2006.03.002 [Google Scholar]
  28. Harding, N.
    (2008) The ‘I’, the ‘me’ and the ‘you know’: Identifying identities in organisations, Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal3.1: 42–58. doi: 10.1108/17465640810870382
    https://doi.org/10.1108/17465640810870382 [Google Scholar]
  29. Holmes, J.
    (1998) Generic pronouns in the Wellington Corpus of Spoken New Zealand English, Kotare 1.1, www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-Whi011Kota-t1-g1-t5.html.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. (2006a) Workplace narratives, professional identity and relational practice. In A. de Fina , D. Schiffrin , and M. Bamberg (eds.), Discourse and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.166–187. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511584459.009
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511584459.009 [Google Scholar]
  31. (2006b) Gendered Talk at Work. Constructing Social Identity through Workplace Interaction. Malden, Mass: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Holmes, J. , and M. Stubbe
    (2003) Power and Politeness in the Workplace: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Talk at Work. Harlow: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Holmes, J. , and M. Marra
    (2004) Relational practice in the workplace: Women’s talk or gendered discourse?Language in Society33: 377–398. doi: 10.1017/S0047404504043039
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0047404504043039 [Google Scholar]
  34. Holmes, J. , and S. Schnurr
    (2005) Politeness, humour and gender in the workplace: Negotiating norms and identifying contestation. Journal of Politeness Research: Language, Behaviour, Culture1.1: 121–149.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Johnson, G.C.
    (2006) The discursive construction of teacher identities in a research interview. In A. Fina , D. Schiffrin , and M. Bamberg (eds.), Discourse and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.213–232. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511584459.011
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511584459.011 [Google Scholar]
  36. Johnstone, B.
    (2001) Narrative. In D. Schiffrin , D. Tannen , and H.E. Hamilton (eds.), The Handbook of Discourse Analysis. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.635–649.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Johnson, G.C.
    (2006) The discursive construction of teacher identities in a research interview. In A. de Fina , D. Schiffrin , and M. Bamberg (eds.), Discourse and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.213–232. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511584459.011
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511584459.011 [Google Scholar]
  38. Jorgenson, J.
    (2002) Engineering selves: Negotiating gender and identity in technical work. Management Communication Quarterly15.3: 350–380. doi: 10.1177/0893318902153002
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0893318902153002 [Google Scholar]
  39. Lakoff, R.
    (1975) Language and Woman’s Place. New York: Harper and Row.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Labov, W.
    (1972) Language in the Inner City. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Levy, R. , and D. Hollan
    (1998) Person-centered interviewing and observation. In H.R. Bernard (ed.), Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology. Walnut Creek, Calif: Altamira Press, pp.333–364.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Linstead, A. , and R. Thomas
    (2002) ‘What do you want from me?’: A poststructuralist feminist reading of middle managers’ identities. Culture and Organization8.1: 1–20. doi: 10.1080/14759550212106
    https://doi.org/10.1080/14759550212106 [Google Scholar]
  43. Litosseliti, L. , and J. Sunderland
    (eds.) (2002) Gender Identity and Discourse Analysis. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. doi: 10.1075/dapsac.2
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/dapsac.2 [Google Scholar]
  44. Litosseliti, L.
    (2006) Gender & Language. Theory and Practice. London: Hodder Arnold.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Lucius-Hoene, G. , and A. Deppermann
    (2004) Narrative Identität und Positionierung (Narrative identityandpositioning). Gesprächsforschung – Online-Zeitschrift zur verbalen Interaktion5: 166–183.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. McElhinny, B.
    (1998) ‘I don’t smile much anymore’: Affect, gender and the discourse of Pittsburgh police officers. In J. Coates (ed.), Language and Gender. A Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.309–327.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Miglbauer, M.
    (2010) Postsocialist globalised workplaces in Croatia and Serbia: Work characteristics, gender and identities. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Vienna.
  48. Mills, S.
    (1997) Discourse. London: Routledge. doi: 10.1016/S0378‑2166(97)00073‑8
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(97)00073-8 [Google Scholar]
  49. Mishler, E.G.
    (1986) Research interviewing: Context and narrative. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. Moore, H.
    (1993) The differences within and the differences between. In T. des Valle (ed.), Gendered anthropology. London/New York: Routledge, pp.193–204.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. Mullany, L.
    (2006) Narrative constructions of gender and professional identities. In T. Omoniyi , and G. White (eds.), The Sociolinguistics of Identity. London: Continuum, pp.157–172.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. (2007) Gendered Discourse in the Professional Workplace. Basingstoke: Palgrave. doi: 10.1057/9780230592902
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230592902 [Google Scholar]
  53. Nestić, D.
    (2007) Differing characteristics or differing rewards: What is behind the gender wage gap in Croatia?EIZ Working Papers 0704, hrcak.srce.hr/file/106596.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Potter, J. , and M. Wetherell
    (1995) Natural order: Why social psychologists should study (a constructed version) of natural language, and why they have not done so. Journal of Language and Social Psychology14.1-2: 216–222. doi: 10.1177/0261927X95141012
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0261927X95141012 [Google Scholar]
  55. Rapley, T.J.
    (2001) The art(fulness) of open-ended interviewing: Some considerations on analysing interviews. Qualitative Research1.3: 303–323. doi: 10.1177/146879410100100303
    https://doi.org/10.1177/146879410100100303 [Google Scholar]
  56. Riessman, C.K.
    (2008) Narrative methods for the human sciences. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  57. Sarbin, T.R.
    (ed.) (1986) Narrative Psychology. The storied nature of human conduct. New York: Praeger.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Schlehe, J.
    (2003) Formen qualitativer ethnographischer Interviews (Types of qualitative ethnographicinterviews). In B. Beer (ed.), Methoden und Techniken der Feldforschung. Reimer: Berlin, pp.71–93.
    [Google Scholar]
  59. Tannen, D.
    (1989) Talking voices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. Tienari, J. , A. Soderberg , C. Holgersson , and E. Vaara
    (2005) Gender and national identity constructions in the cross-border merger context. Gender, Work and Organization12.3: 217–241. doi: 10.1111/j.1468‑0432.2005.00271.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0432.2005.00271.x [Google Scholar]
  61. Van de Mieroop, D.
    (2006) Identity construction in institutional speeches: The crucial role of pronouns. Lodz Papers in Pragmatics2: 81–103.
    [Google Scholar]
  62. (2009) A rehearsed self in repeated narratives?: The case of two interviews with a former hooligan. Discourse Studies11.6: 1–20. doi: 10.1177/1461445609347236
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445609347236 [Google Scholar]
  63. Van Langenhove, L. , and R. Harré
    (1999) Introducing positioning theory. In R. Harré , and L. van Langenhove (eds.), Positioning Theory: Moral contexts of Intentional Action. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.14–31.
    [Google Scholar]
  64. Watson, T.J.
    (2009) Narrative, life story and manager identity: A case study in autobiographical identity work. Human Relations62.3: 425–452. doi: 10.1177/0018726708101044
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726708101044 [Google Scholar]
  65. Weller, S.C.
    (1998) Structured interviewing and questionnaire construction. In H.R. Bernard (ed.), Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology. Walnut Creek, Calif: Altamira Press, pp.365–409.
    [Google Scholar]
  66. West, C.
    (1984) When the doctor is a lady. Symbolic Interaction7: 87–106. doi: 10.1525/si.1984.7.1.87
    https://doi.org/10.1525/si.1984.7.1.87 [Google Scholar]
  67. Wodak, R.
    (1997) ‘I know we won’t revolutionize the world with it, but …’: Styles of female leadership in institutions. In H. Kotthoff , and R. Wodak (eds.), Communicating Gender in Context. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp.335–370. doi: 10.1075/pbns.42
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/pbns.42 [Google Scholar]
  68. Woods, N.
    (1989) Talking shop: Sex and status as determinants of floor apportionment in a work setting. In J. Coates , and D. Cameron (eds.)Women in their Speech Communities: New Perspectives on Language and Sex. London: Longman, pp.141–157.
    [Google Scholar]
  69. Wortham, S. , and V. Gadsden
    (2006) Urban fathers positioning themselves through narrative: An approach to narrative self-construction. In A. de Fina , D. Schiffrin and M. Bamberg (eds.), Discourse and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.314–341. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511584459.016
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511584459.016 [Google Scholar]
  70. Zhurzhenko, T.
    (2001) Free market ideology and new women’s identities in postsocialist Ukraine. The European Journal of Women’s Studies8.1: 29–49. doi: 10.1177/135050680100800103
    https://doi.org/10.1177/135050680100800103 [Google Scholar]
  71. Zimmerman, D.
    (1998) Identity, context and interaction. In C. Antaki , and S. Widdicombe (eds.), Identities in Talk. London: Sage, pp.87–106.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Gender; Identities; Identity levels; Interviews; Positioning; Power; Stories
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error