chapter  5
The process of identity construction in the family business: a discursive psychology perspective
Pages 21

This chapter proposes an approach to the study of the process of emergence of identity in Family Entrepreneurship, drawing on recent developments in organization studies. As Langley and Tsoukas (2010: 14) have recently argued, ‘some of the most intriguing ideas in Process Organization Studies are emerging from research that takes categories and concepts that are usually considered as stable, and questions their underlying stability’. Their specific example is ‘identity’, a concept that has been problematised in recent work (Gioia and Patvardhan, 2012). Indeed, they point out that the term ‘identity work’ has been adopted to reflect the way in which individuals discursively and interactively relate to construct their identities. From a Family Entrepreneurship viewpoint this stimulates a reconsideration of identity and identity construction, which has only comparatively recently become the focus of significant attention in entrepreneurship more generally (Fauchart and Gruber, 2011; Navis and Glynn, 2011). With limited exceptions (Zellweger, Eddleston and Kellermanns, 2010), and despite a long tradition of research on family identity (Cigoli and Scabini, 2006) in sociology and psychology, this attention has not extended to the study of the family business. Much of the research on identity in entrepreneurship has been empirical, employing a number of concepts (among them, role identity theory, social identity theory, structural identity theory, narrative and discourse analysis) to explore its role and impact, addressing the questions ‘what is entrepreneurial identity?’ and ‘how do we measure entrepreneurial identity?’ From a process entrepreneurial studies perspective we argue that the focus of research should shift to ask questions of ‘how is entrepreneurial identity formed?’ and ‘how do we develop, change and transform entrepreneurial identity?’ Given the expansion of research into family business as a distinctive organisational form (Pérez Rodriguez and Basco, 2011) we suggest that the Family Entrepreneurship domain is a particularly fruitful one for theory development and empirical application. Specifically, Family Entrepreneurship offers a context for the study of certain kinds of organisational phenomena (Steier, 2003) that can contribute to the development of management and entrepreneurial theory more generally as well as to a theory of the family firm per se (Chrisman, Kellermanns, Chan and Liano, 2010; Zahra, Hayton and Salvato, 2004). Following Powell and Baker (2013) we argue for a revised conception of identity in Family Entrepreneurship research, drawing on the individual level identity theory dominant in entrepreneurship, that transcends the distinction between (sociology based) role identity theory and (social psychology based) social identity theory. Accordingly, we highlight the need to incorporate multi-level research (Rousseau 1985; Hitt, Beamish, Jackson and Mathieu, 2007) into identity studies, in this case through the enmeshment of individual, family and organisational identities. In organisation and management scholarship, research into individual identity and organisational identity has developed as largely separate domains. Entrepreneurial identity research has tended to collapse these levels of analysis

into one by assuming that the individual entrepreneur and the organisation they create are one and the same. A focus on Family Entrepreneurship requires a formal analysis of identity and identity formation at the level of the individual, the family and the organisation, and of the interactive dynamics among them. In so doing we build on recent discussions of the construct of familiness which has been identified as the ‘unique, inseparable, and synergistic resource and capabilities arising from family involvement and interactions’ (Zellweger et al., 2010: 54). In addressing the implications of familiness for our understanding of identity, engaging with different discourses can help highlight the taken-for-granted assumptions in identity research and, thus, open up new avenues of research, stimulate new questions and help generate new insights for Family Entrepreneurship. Specifically, we develop a framework for Family Entrepreneurship identity research that draws on insights from the field of discursive psychology to examine identity positioning in the family business. As a theory of human action, discursive psychology sits within a social constructionist school of thought on identity. This views identity as something we do, not something we have (Shotter, 2010) and emphasises the need to study it as an inter-subjective, relational, back-andforth social interaction (Mueller and Whittle, 2012), notably through the discursive devices used as linguistic building blocks in the construction of identity positions.