"I feel that I get by with what I do" - Using narrative as a conceptual tool for understanding social identity

18 Nov 2009

Drawing on a qualitative study of a cohort of final year preprimary teacher college students, this paper motivates for narrative analysis as a suitable tool for accessing ‘insider accounts’ of social reality. Through an analysis of the voices of these young people, I make the argument that narrative analysis allows us to develop an explanation of how people interpret their social locations and personal histories through the discourses and material contexts to which they have access. I commence by presenting the narrative of academic performance of one of the social groupings within the cohort. The material and discursive parameters that framed their narrative account are outlined. Similarities and differences between individual accounts are highlighted, and explanations for these similarities and differences posited. The ways in which multiple social locations nuance identity as nested are explicated. The paper concludes with a discussion of the potential contribution of narrative analysis as a conceptual tool for understanding social identity.