On being possessed by the job: Identity work as awareness, affordance and emergence

Research Cluster

Speaker:Jonathan Gosling and Peter Case, University of Exeter Business School
Date: Monday 29 March 2010
Time: 1600 hrs
Location: MBA Lecture Theatre

Further details

This paper offers a psychoanalytically-informed contribution to our understanding of how identity and a sense of self is linked to roles, especially transitions into 'larger' leadership roles. It draws particularly on two principal theoretical sources: pre-modern treatments of reincarnation (which is used as a metaphor for role transitions); and the systems psychodynamic construct of 'managing oneself in role'.

We argue that taking up a role is co-terminus with taking up knowledge associated with that role, and thus contribute a conceptualisation of role transitions that is epistemological as well as psychological. One implication is a theory of knowledge that refers to ideas as wholes rendered particular by role-holders. A second implication is to interpret learning as realization of properties inherent in a role, rather than the acquisition of new personal knowledge (and thus connect to theories of 'emergence'). A third implication is that roles now appear as affordances, offering unforeseen opportunities.