Identity challenges and identity work: sporting embodiment and disrupted identity

Allen-Collinson, Jacquelyn and Hockey, John (2015) Identity challenges and identity work: sporting embodiment and disrupted identity. In: 6th European Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction Conference, 29-31 July 2015, University of Salford.

Allen-Collinson Hockey 2015 Identity work Salford Symbolic Interaction conf.pdf
Allen-Collinson Hockey 2015 Identity work Salford Symbolic Interaction conf.pdf - Presentation

Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


This paper addresses a topic of long-standing concern to symbolic interactionism: identity challenges and the role of ‘identity work’ in coping with identity disruptive happenings (Allen-Collinson, 2011; Hockey, 2013). In the case considered here, disruption to identity was generated by long-term injuries experienced by two recreational, non-elite but nevertheless very ‘serious’ and highly committed distance runners.
Employing a symbolic interactionist framework, we analyse data from a two-year autoethnographic project examining the injury and rehabilitation process, and the identity challenges provoked by enforced withdrawal from a core element of identification. Here, we explore the role of identity work in providing a much-needed degree of continuity of identity during the liminality of long-term injury, drawing on Snow and Anderson’s (1995) and Perinbanayagam’s (2000) conceptualisations of identity work. These focus on the dimensions of materialistic, associative and vocabularic identifications. We illustrate these key forms of identification via rich data extracts from the research project. Our extended quotes cohere around the themes of: 1) the use of settings, props and appearance; 2) selective association with subcultural others; and 3) identity talk.
In its varied and complex forms, identity work was found to be of great salience in sustaining a credible, if modified, running identity in the face of considerable identity challenge, and in generating much-needed momentum toward our goal of restitution to full running selves.

Allen-Collinson J. 2011. Assault on Self: Intimate partner abuse and the contestation of identity. Symbolic Interaction, 34 (1): 108-127.
Hockey, J. 2013. Knowing the 'Going': The sensory evaluation of distance running. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 5 (1): 127-141.
Perinbanayagam, R.S. 2000. The Presence of Self. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.
Snow, D.A., and L. Anderson, L. 1995. The Problem of Identity Construction among the Homeless. In Symbolic Interaction: An Introduction to Social Psychology edited by N. J. Hermann and L. T. Reynolds, pp. 239-258. New York: General Hall, Inc.

Additional Information:Working the Interactionist Tradition: Contributions, Legacies and Prospects
Keywords:Sociology, Sport, Distance running, Symbolic interactionism, Symbolic interaction, Identity, Identity work, JCNotOpen
Subjects:L Social studies > L300 Sociology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Sport and Exercise Science
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ID Code:18219
Deposited On:03 Aug 2015 13:05

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