Saturday, 20 November 2010

Narratives as navigation of complex professional environments?

Part of the research journey is about shaping up a theoretical / philosophical 'frame' which, in my case brings the subject alive. Asking questions about professional identity and dealing with narratives involves playing with some big (and frankly, in some senses overworked) themes in academic literature. There are some well worn approaches to these themes which deal with the subject in sweeping, generalising ways. Now I'm a few months into reading around and note scribbling (and have a draft research proposal that seems a lot more solid) I'm finding my own take on those themes, one which is a lot more rooted in the actual situations and organisations individuals work in. 

Reading around has continued to confirm my own experience which is that understanding the shaping of professional identity must be done by examining the specific context of the professional environment in which an individual is active. Pragmatic philosophy sheds some useful light here, with a helpful emphasis on practice (which tells us so much), uncertainty, thought as a guide to action and so on. 

I'm focusing on a very situated identity here, thinking also about the insights that Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) offers into identity, tying it (rightly) to a 'social and relational view of the self' (Stetsenko and Arievitch, 2004) discussed in the context of 'collective practices' articulated by Leont'ev, Engestrom and others. 

For me, it's a unique opportunity to understand an professional environment (contemporary children's services in the UK) which presents individuals with real challenges in (re) constructing and navigating their professional 'self'. How fascinating (for me at least!) to try to understand that complex relationship between individual narratives and these environments. In fact, how fascinating to work with research participants to examine how they generate, use and relate their narratives.