Modern languages : which identities? : which selves?
Academic identities in modem languages in the British higher education system may be understood as an interaction between three domains: the institutional, the epistemological and the ontological. This model, initially developed at the beginning stages of the research, was refined through subsequent field work. It comprised both the ways in which respondents construct the institutions and disciplinary field in which they operate (which I call, in tum, institutional and field identities) and the sense of the self that academics create by positioning themselves within institutional and field structures and discourses in relation to their personal histories, values and beliefs. Staff of the languages departments of three English universities were interviewed in the process of data collection. The outcome is a pattern which reflects the complex interplay between institutional identities, field identities and selves. It is through the interaction between identities and selves that the academic identity is built in each of the universities perused. Using concepts taken from constructivist-realism, the personal dimension emerges as paramount in two senses. Firstly, it represents the lens through which the institutional and field domains are both understood and constructed by the respondents. Secondly, it offers a heuristic research device that assists in capturing the kind of personal and professional self individual academics develop as they position themselves within institutional and field discourses, and identify (or not) with some of these. It emerges that the more institutional structures are stable, yet supple enough to accommodate academics' values, the more academics' selves acquire a creative force that benefits, ultimately, both the institution and the disciplinary field at large.