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Title: Life history interviews with UK residents from Zimbabwe as a site for the discursive construction of subjects, places and relationships to places
Author: Hall, L.
Awarding Body: City, University of London
Current Institution: City, University of London
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis explores how life history interviews I conducted with ten UK residents from Zimbabwe in 2011 were a site for discursive construction of subjects, places and relationships to place in an occasioned way. Drawing on insights from positioning theory (Davies and Harre 1990; Davies and Harre 1999) and the synthetic approach to discourse analysis (Potter and Wetherell 1987; Potter et al 1990; Wetherell and Potter 1992; Wetherell 1998; Wetherell and Edley 1999), I argue that while discourses determine what it is possible to think, say and be within a particular historical juncture (Foucault 1972), the way in which people construct phenomena and position themselves as subjects in talk is shaped by the interactional context (Wetherell 1998; Wetherell and Edley 1999; Davies and Harre 1990; Davies and Harre 1999). Building on work which has explored the discursive construction of identities, I demonstrate that during the process of talking about their lives, the men and women I interviewed recapitulated established narrative forms (Elliot 2005); were fabricated into the social order because it is virtually impossible to speak out of discourses (Foucault 1979); and engaged in a dynamic process of positioning themselves, positioning me, and rejecting, ignoring, and accepting the positions made available to them (Davies and Harre 1990; Davies and Harre 1999). My exploration of the construction of places within the interviews focuses on interviewees' talk about Zimbabwe as a country in crisis and Britain as a place where racism is/is not a significant problem. My analysis takes inspiration from two bodies of work relating to the discursive construction of places: work which explores the process in which representations of places invest those places with meaning by appropriating other representations (see Daniels 1992; McGreevy 1992), and research which attends to the way in which constructions of places may be orientated to the achievement of interactional and social goals (see Durrheim and Dixon 2001; Wallwork and Dixon 2004; Garner 2013; Di Masso et al 2011). I explore how interviewees' utterances concerning Zimbabwe and Britain were filled with the echoes and reverberations of preceding utterances (Bakhtin 1986). The action-orientation of these constructions of Zimbabwe and Britain is also explored; I discuss instances in which the men and women I interviewed produced representations of Zimbabwe which explicitly or implicitly attributed blame for the country's economic decline, and constructed accounts of racism in Britain which were orientated to maintaining a positive self-identity and minimising the significance of racism as a problem. Finally, this thesis demonstrates that the interview I conducted with UK residents from Zimbabwe were an occasion for interviewees to construct, rather than provide an insight into, the nature of their relationships with current or former places of residence. Focusing on the accounts of four interviewees, I explore how speakers reproduced tropes and narratives which naturalise the relationship between particular people and places (see Malkki 1992; Taylor 2005b), and negotiated the politics of belonging (Yuval-Davis 2011) relating to past or present places of residence. I also discuss how talking about place attachments was an occasion for identity work (Taylor 2003).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HM Sociology