Constructing Subjects, Producing Subjectivities: Developing Analytic Needs in Discursive Psychology

McAvoy, Jean (2007). Constructing Subjects, Producing Subjectivities: Developing Analytic Needs in Discursive Psychology. In: Narrative and Memory: Selected papers from the 6th annual conference (Robinson, David; Kelly, Nancy and Milnes, Kate eds.), University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, pp. 53–62.


The publication of Potter and Wetherell’s (1987) blueprint for a discursive social psychology was a pivotal moment in the discursive turn in psychology. That transformational text went on to underpin much contemporary discursive psychology; paving the way for what has become an enriching range of analytic approaches, and epistemological and ontological arguments (Wetherell, Taylor and Yates, 2001a; 2001b). Twenty years on, and as discursive psychology continues to develop, the approaches it encompasses are becoming more vibrantly contested and a range of positions are forming around what one might appropriately designate a discursive psychology, and what form that discursive psychology should take (Wetherell, forthcoming, 2007). In this exploratory paper I pursue some of these debates insofar as they offer analytic resources for my PhD study of women’s accounts of success and failure. I outline two different strands in discursive psychology; an epistemological constructionism concerned with how meaning is established in interaction; and an ontological constructionism, which takes this somewhat further by looking at the implications of constructions for subjects and subjectivity. I consider a range of resources available for a discursive psychology attentive to the everyday practices of lived lives, to the intersubjective production of meanings and to the theorisation of individual history and individual differences. As part of this, I explore the potential contribution of a psycho-social discursive psychology, significant for the inextricable connection it makes between individual and society, and for how it might inform notions of a dynamic, acting, individual. In this, however, I query whether a discursive psycho-social psychology must necessarily draw upon traditional psychoanalytic architectures.

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