A Narrative Approach to Collective Identities*
Andrew D. Brown
Journal of Management Studies, 2006, vol. 43, issue 4, 731-753
abstract From a narrative perspective, organizations' identities are discursive (linguistic) constructs constituted by the multiple identity‐relevant narratives that their participants author about them, and which feature, for example, in documents, conversations and electronic media. By defining collective identities as the totality of such narratives I draw attention to their complex, and often fragmented and heterogeneous nature. My approach contrasts with much of the theorizing in this field which has tended to homogenize collective identities by emphasizing what is common or shared, failed to capture the interplay between different communities within organizations, and produced bland, undifferentiated empirical research. In particular, the theoretical framework that I outline focuses attention on the importance of reflexivity, voice, plurivocity, temporality, and fictionality to an understanding of collective identities as locales for competing hegemonic claims. In combination, these notions form a unique conceptual model for theorizing and researching collective identities. This said, a narrative approach also has its limitations, and is proposed as an additional, not exclusive, interpretive lens.
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