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Re-viewing 'role' in processes of identity construction

Simpson, Barbara and Carroll, Brigid (2008) Re-viewing 'role' in processes of identity construction. Organization, 15 (1). pp. 29-50. ISSN 1350-5084

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Although role theory appears to have been largely dismissed from the contemporary critical literature, role is nevertheless a persistent theme in the discourses of organizational actors. This paper argues that it is timely, therefore, to re-view role particularly as it articulates with the processes of constructing identity. Drawing on three interview segments that evoke a variety of roles, we develop the notion of role as a boundary object (a concept that we have appropriated from the sociology of science and technology literature). We show that this provides a much richer and more complex understanding that recognizes role as an inherently incomplete and emergent intermediary in identity construction processes. Further, we suggest that this view of role resonates with, and informs wider theoretical conversations about identity construction.