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The “I”, the “me” and the “you know”: identifying identities in organisations

Nancy Harding (University of Bradford, School of Management, Bradford, UK)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 9 May 2008




“Identity” is of major interest in organisation studies, but as identity is concerned very much with subjectivity it is difficult to explore it empirically. The purpose of this paper is to offer a methodology for analysing interview transcripts designed to discover the ongoing processes of becoming of the self, or of identities, embedded in the data. This way of analysing qualitative data allows the development of theories of how others construct their identities through the swift‐moving concatenation of selves appearing, disappearing and reappearing in the moment‐to‐moment construction of the self.


The methodology involves analysis of personal pronouns and the gaps and interruptions in speech. Personal pronouns, it is shown, illustrate the appearance of different enactments of the self, each appearance/re‐appearance signalled by pauses, gaps or other interruptions in the flow of speech. The method is based on the theories of Bollas, a psychoanalytical theorist, and Harré, and Mühlhäusler and Harré who have explored how personal pronouns work.


The paper demonstrates how subjects explore who they are as an “I” and a “me”, revealing the multiple selves that appear in any transcript, and thus processes of identity formation. Provision of a worked example of the model, of a manager discussing her work, demonstrates how analysis of personal pronouns illuminates aspects of subject formation whose exploration is difficult.

Research limitations/implications

The methodology is recommended for others' use and adaptation. It allows possibilities for expanding the types of research questions that may be posed, as it provides a method for data analysis, personal pronoun use, that attempts to work with the “other minds” problematic. In other words, it allows glimpses of how subjects see themselves.


This paper is of use to qualitative researchers, and if its methodology is taken up can expand knowledge of the constructions of selves in the workplace.



Harding, N. (2008), "The “I”, the “me” and the “you know”: identifying identities in organisations", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 42-58.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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