Identity trouble and place of residence in women's life narratives

Taylor, Stephanie (2005). Identity trouble and place of residence in women's life narratives. In: Kelly, N.; Robinson, D.; Horrocks, C. and Roberts, B. eds. Narrative, Memory and Everyday Life. Huddersfield: University of Huddersfield, pp. 97–106.


Work in narrative and discursive psychology offers a theoretical and analytic approach to the meaning of place for identity in contemporary society. The conventional ‘born and bred’ or nativeness connection between place and residence based on long-term personal and family connection can be understood as a canonical narrative (Bruner 1987) and a resource for speakers in their identity work in relation to place. Wetherell (1998) and others have suggested that speakers engage actively in such identity work, for example, by taking up subject positions, but they are also constrained, for example, by the resources and positions made available by larger discourses. This constraint can appear as ‘trouble’, when an identity is potentially challengeable as implausible or inconsistent. In a society characterised by increased mobility and instability of residence, such trouble can occur in conventional positionings in relation to place. Analysis of interview data from women speakers reveals an alternative positioning in relation to a chosen place of residence. The emphasis on choice and opportunity in their talk is consistent with the reflexive project to construct an individual identity of self and achievement associated with a contemporary or neo-liberal subject (Rose 1996; Walkerdine 2003). However the analysis suggests that this alternative identity work is also constrained, and that trouble occurs in relation to a gendered identity.

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