Title

Identity Work, Occupation and the Enactment of Narratives: The Story of the Gypsy Girl

Start Time

6-10-2012 2:35 PM

End Time

6-10-2012 3:05 PM

Session Type

Event

Abstract

Occupational scientists have long been interested in exploring the seemingly inextricable link between occupation and identity. Occupations are seen as key to becoming a particular person and contribute to the storied nature of one's life. Occupation is not only a part of lived narratives, but also part of narratives that are told to create a coherent life story. Occupations are, as scholars in occupational therapy have asserted for some time, much more than the physical “doing” of an activity, but rather “the synthesis of doing, being, and becoming”(Wilcock, 1998, p.249).

The purpose of this paper is to explore three interconnected constructs, occupation, narrative and identity, to deepen the discussion within occupational science. A second objective is to explore the problem of identity construction in individuals who live “on the margins” of society. This paper explores how one woman with autism and limited income creatively used occupation to enact and refashion identities. The data considered here is from a larger ethnographic study of adults with high functioning autism. Data collection, which lasted nine months, entailed in-depth narrative interviews, extensive participant observation, and review of artifacts. Data analysis involved a complex process of both thematic coding and narrative analysis. I utilized Snow and Anderson’s (1987) construct of identity work, the activities that people do to create, present and sustain personal identities, to guide the analysis. Every day practices of the body, arrangement of physical settings, use of objects, and interpersonal activities were a focus of the analysis rather than merely “identity talk.” To ensure rigor, peer feedback and member checks were used extensively along with a reflexive journal.

The results, a narrative portrait, highlight the great length that individuals go through to not only construct narratives but to enact them through engagement in occupation. These occupations are carefully chosen and carried out in ways that make sense in particular communities, in this case, the Gypsy community. Community, used here, is not necessarily a specific place but rather a group of people who share experiences and particular practices, including occupations, narratives, artifacts, and vocabulary. The paper concludes by exploring how occupational science can contribute to larger discussions about identity, particularly for those who are marginalized.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. In what ways does a focus on occupation complement and contribute to discussions about identity in other disciplines more traditionally focused on identity, for example, sociology, anthropology and psychology?
  2. How can occupation itself be used as an essential method of data collection essential to understanding identity?
  3. Can one truly take on an identity through enacting occupation in socially accepted ways or are there other elements that must be considered?

References

Christiansen, C. H. (1999). Defining lives: Occupation as identity: An essay on competence, coherence, and the creation of meaning: 1999 Eleanor Clarke Slagle lecture. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 53(6), 547-558. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.53.6.547

Holland, D., Lachicotte, W., Skinner, D., & Cain, C. (1998). Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Mattingly, C (1998). Healing dramas and clinical plots: The narrative structure of experience. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139167017

Snow, D.A. & Anderson, L. (1987). Identity work among the homeless: The verbal construction and avowal of personal identities. The American Journal of Sociology, 92(6),1336-1371. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/228668

Wilcock, A. A. (1998). Reflections on doing, being and becoming. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65, 248-256.

Comments

Research paper

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Oct 6th, 2:35 PM Oct 6th, 3:05 PM

Identity Work, Occupation and the Enactment of Narratives: The Story of the Gypsy Girl

Occupational scientists have long been interested in exploring the seemingly inextricable link between occupation and identity. Occupations are seen as key to becoming a particular person and contribute to the storied nature of one's life. Occupation is not only a part of lived narratives, but also part of narratives that are told to create a coherent life story. Occupations are, as scholars in occupational therapy have asserted for some time, much more than the physical “doing” of an activity, but rather “the synthesis of doing, being, and becoming”(Wilcock, 1998, p.249).

The purpose of this paper is to explore three interconnected constructs, occupation, narrative and identity, to deepen the discussion within occupational science. A second objective is to explore the problem of identity construction in individuals who live “on the margins” of society. This paper explores how one woman with autism and limited income creatively used occupation to enact and refashion identities. The data considered here is from a larger ethnographic study of adults with high functioning autism. Data collection, which lasted nine months, entailed in-depth narrative interviews, extensive participant observation, and review of artifacts. Data analysis involved a complex process of both thematic coding and narrative analysis. I utilized Snow and Anderson’s (1987) construct of identity work, the activities that people do to create, present and sustain personal identities, to guide the analysis. Every day practices of the body, arrangement of physical settings, use of objects, and interpersonal activities were a focus of the analysis rather than merely “identity talk.” To ensure rigor, peer feedback and member checks were used extensively along with a reflexive journal.

The results, a narrative portrait, highlight the great length that individuals go through to not only construct narratives but to enact them through engagement in occupation. These occupations are carefully chosen and carried out in ways that make sense in particular communities, in this case, the Gypsy community. Community, used here, is not necessarily a specific place but rather a group of people who share experiences and particular practices, including occupations, narratives, artifacts, and vocabulary. The paper concludes by exploring how occupational science can contribute to larger discussions about identity, particularly for those who are marginalized.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. In what ways does a focus on occupation complement and contribute to discussions about identity in other disciplines more traditionally focused on identity, for example, sociology, anthropology and psychology?
  2. How can occupation itself be used as an essential method of data collection essential to understanding identity?
  3. Can one truly take on an identity through enacting occupation in socially accepted ways or are there other elements that must be considered?