“…because I’m just a stupid woman from an ngo”: Interviews and the interplay between constructions of gender and professional identity

Marlene Miglbauer


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.

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