Managing Professional Identities: Knowledge, Performativity and the "New" Professional

By Mike Dent; Stephen Whitehead | Go to book overview
Save to active project


Speaking professionally

Occupational anxiety and discursive ingenuity among human resourcing specialists

Tony Watson

Words in action: discourse and discursive resources

The focus of this chapter is on one particular occupational activity, that of personnel or human resource management, and to compare the utilization of notions of professionalism as discursive resources by an occupational spokesperson, on the one hand, and by an occupational member on the other hand. We will see the former individual expressing one version of a professional identity for the occupation he ‘leads’ and we will see the latter talking in terms of a rather different, and much more equivocal, professional identity for human resource managers.

The approach to be taken is a sociological one, with elements of social psychology included. In spite of attention to language, the concern is not with language or linguistics as such. To treat certain linguistic utterances like ‘profession’ or ‘personnel’ as discursive resources is to recognize two things. First, these utterances are resources that are utilized by human actors to further particular projects and manage their identities. And, second, they are drawn from certain ‘resource banks’ or ‘linguistic repertoires’ (Potter and Wetherell 1987) made socially available to any particular social actor. A particular position in the sociology of knowledge is thus being adopted here. It is one that sees a vast range of discourses emerging within human cultures as part of the process of the social construction of reality and the ways in which people construct their identities (Berger and Luckmann 1971).

The concept of discourse being used here has it as a connected set of concepts, expressions and statements which constitutes a way of talking or writing about an aspect of the world, thus framing and influencing the way people understand and act with regard to that aspect of the world. There are clear similarities in this concept of discourse and that used by Foucault (1980). But the notion is being used here as part of a social constructionist sociology and a discursive psychology, these being conceived in a way that does not entail a commitment to Foucauldian poststructuralism. Discourses, as they are defined here, are both drawn upon by human actors in the fulfilment of their projects and reshaped and developed by the way they use them—playing a part, that is, in the active reality-constructing dimension of human project fulfilment (Schutz


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Managing Professional Identities: Knowledge, Performativity and the "New" Professional


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 262

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?