Using the vignette methodology as a tool for exploring cultural identity positions

Crafter, Sarah; De Abreu, Guida; Cline, Tony and O'Dell, Lindsay (2010). Using the vignette methodology as a tool for exploring cultural identity positions. In: European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) Special Interest Group 21: Learning and Teaching in Culturally Diverse Settings: Moving through cultures of learning, 2-3 Sep 2010, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


In this paper we will examine how the vignette methodology can aid understanding of cultural identity. Vignettes are typically short stories about a fictional character or fictional scenario appropriate to a particular study. The story places the behaviour of the character in a concrete context and allows the researcher to explore participants? positions and perspectives on the issues arising from the situation. We argue that within a framework of cultural development theory and the dialogical self theory (Hermans, 2001) identity positions can be explained in relation to the sociocultural context. To do so we report on part of wider study about representations of children who work. In particular this paper will focus on language brokering which involves translating or interpreting on behalf of family members who do not speak the host language. Language brokering requires the child to engage in both the cultural contexts of the host culture and the home culture and as such, the child must negotiate new cultural identities. Those interviewed were young people aged between 15-18 years, some of whom were brokers and others who were not. When looking at the language broker vignette scenario these young people often positioned the parents, teachers and friends of the language broker in the scenario in particular ways. Through notions of adequacy and inadequacy, visibility and invisibility, theoretical ideas around cultural identity theory and the dialogical self theory can provide an understanding of how the young people moved through different (often conflicting) identity positions.

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