chapter  7
18 Pages

Authentic identity as an achievement

A view from discursive psychology
WithSue Widdicombe, Yarong Xie

This chapter outlines a discursive psychological (DP) approach to authentic identities. DP is the study of how and for what people manage psychological issues such as category membership, identity, and authenticity within sequences of interaction. It assumes that discourse (claims, descriptions, accounts) is constructed and constructive, action oriented, and produced in and for the local context. A DP approach is thus not concerned with who a person “really is,” but how the authenticity of an identity is worked up and what this achieves. We illustrate this approach by (re)analyzing extracts drawn from published studies of youth subcultures, football fans, online discussion forums and support groups. We identify common discursive strategies, such as drawing contrasts with non-genuine members and ascribing the “right” (or wrong) motives or attributes to self, and show how they are used to claim (or reject) the authenticity of various identities. We explain that such claims are “recipient designed”: they require ratification by the interlocutor. They are also “action-oriented” in that they attend to members’ concerns such as interactional and inferential issues. We conclude by summarizing DP’s potential contribution to understanding authentic identities.