Discursive psychology and the production of identity in language practices

McAvoy, Jean (2016). Discursive psychology and the production of identity in language practices. In: Preece, Siân ed. The Routledge Handbook of Language and Identity. Routledge Handbooks in Applied Linguistics. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 98–112.


This chapter explores the shared agenda for discursive psychology and applied linguistics in the study of identity and outlines the distinctive and ethically sound contribution discursive psychology can make. Discursive psychology enables the applied linguist to examine the way psychological concepts are made relevant and consequential in talk, in a way that holds up to scrutiny, without requiring the applied linguist to become enmeshed in favouring one theory of psychological subjectivity and interiority over another. The chapter locates the development of discursive psychology within the broader discipline of psychology, outlining the historical trajectory, theoretical stance and analytic principles. It outlines some of the problematic assumptions that can occur when applying psychological concepts such as attitudes, beliefs, motivation and agency across disciplinary boundaries and the ‘psychologisation’ this entails, and explains how discursive psychology offers a practical solution to this interdisciplinary challenge. It rebuts the commonly misapplied criticism that discursive psychology assumes an ‘empty vessel’ model of the person, lacking in continuities and personal order, pointing instead to the epistemological strengths of discursive psychology alongside a cautious approach to ontological claims.

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