This week I have started reading around the concept of identity, specifically student identity in relation to my thesis. I am beginning to realise that because I am focusing upon the individual narratives of students notions of identity underpins my entire thesis . To me the construction and embodiment of students’ identity/ies forms a major concern in terms of examining their experiences of university study. I am interested in exploring students’ ‘trajectories of becoming’ and for me this is inextricably linked to notions of identity. This is a relatively new area of reading for me, and one that I am finding incredibly interesting. As I am taking an auto-ethnographic approach to this research this got me thinking about my own identity, and my ‘student’ identity in particular. I know that I agree with Vincent (2003:5) in that I see identity as “fluid, not fixed; multiple, not single; and transforming, not static” but why do I see it that way?
As an undergraduate student I remember keeping my ‘student-ness’ distinctly separate from my ‘home’ life (home, work, friends etc). I did this in quite a binary way, only checking uni emails at uni, and staying in the library to study rather than doing it at home. I talked about uni in my social circles in terms of how I was finding my course, but any conversations related to academic content or theoretical concepts were only for my university friends, who I saw only at uni. My academic identity was beginning to develop, but only felt ‘appropriate’ for the physical space of university. It lacked any congruence with my home life and as such as not allowed to infiltrate it.
Fast-forward five years and as PhD student my academic identity is still a bone of contention for me. As a consequence of so many years of academic study my sociological imagination now runs wild. I am reflectively aware of how I have changed as a thinker and as a person. I analyse and question almost everything without even realising that I do so. I am a constant source of irritation to my friends and my partner in particular, who is continually annoyed at my need to find a counter-argument for everything she says. Brexit was a nightmare. My academic/student identity has grown and is more powerful, it is no longer something that I can constrain and it claws and fights to get out. I am now conceptualise myself as what I like to call a ‘fledgling academic’. My academic identity is a huge part of me, yet it still lacks any congruence with my home life. I yearn for in-depth conversations about social policy, or about something I have read as part of my studying that day, however I find myself coming home and watching Ex on the Beach so I have something in common to discuss with my friends. If anything the more developed and secure my academic identity has grown, the more aware I am of how uncomfortably it sits within my home life. So I guess this is why I conceptualise identity as fluid and changing according to spacial and time relations, because for me it is on a daily basis. I’m so interested to see how it is for the participants in my research.