Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education
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Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education

Edited by Sara Delamont

The Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education offers both basic and advanced discussions of data collection, analysis and representation of all the best qualitative methods used in educational research.
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Chapter 34: Analysing Narratives: The Narrative Construction of Identity

Cate Watson


Cate Watson The rise of narrative in social and educational research has been led by a widespread recognition of the fundamental importance of narrative to the organization of human experience and our understanding of how lives are lived. Narrative integrates ways of knowing and being and is therefore intimately linked with questions of identity, currently the focus of much interest in social and educational research. The idea that identity is constructed through narrative is widely held. As Hinchman and Hinchman (2001, p. xviii) succinctly put it, ‘identity is that which emerges in and through narratives’. Indeed, to the extent that all narratives of personal experience involve the positioning of self in relation to the other, all may be said to be concerned with identity. The aim of this chapter, therefore, is to explore forms of narrative analysis that explicitly relate to the construction and performance of personal and professional identities considered as a narrative endeavour. However, while there may be broad consensus that identity is narratively constructed, there is perhaps less agreement about how this is accomplished or how it should be conceptualized. Tensions around the narrative analysis of identity therefore arise both from contrasting perspectives as to what counts as a narrative and the nature of identity, a concept which has undergone a radical shift in recent years from a unitary and enduring attribute of selfhood, to notions of identities as constructed, multiple and in flux (see Jenkins, 2008). Approaches to analysis turn on both these issues, and are...

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