Constructing and presenting identities in interviews

Miglbauer, Marlene

Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, Austria


Since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, Eastern and South-Eastern European countries have entered a phase of transformation, which affected and altered state institutions and consequently people’s lives. Rejecting everything that was connected with Socialism, considerable changes have occurred in the areas of the economy, politics and institutions in general impacting on people’s everyday life.

This paper focuses on the construction of identities and the shifts of identity orientation of South-Eastern employees using English as their dominant work language in an interview setting. By drawing on gender identities, professional identities and collective identities, this paper tries to analyse the shifts of identity constructions in interaction by putting them into the context of the phase of transformation in postsocialist Croatia and Serbia since the end of the war in 1995. Relevant changes of the transitional phase include new work settings, economic ties to Western and Central European countries and the (official) discourse of gender equality. Additionally, communicating in a foreign language in the workplace may also be contributing to new arrangements of one’s own identity constructions at work.

Applying the theoretical concepts of Butler’s (1990) fluid and performative identities and Zimmerman’s (1998) concept of orientation to various kinds of identities in interaction, semi-structured interviews are analysed according to how the interviewees structure their accounts and how they relate and orient to different kinds of identities. Special consideration is also given to the interview setting and its influence on the construction of and orientation to identities.


Butler, Judith (1990), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, New York: Routledge.

Zimmerman, Don (1998), “Identity, context and interaction”, In: Charles Antaki/Sue Widdicombe eds., Identities in Talk, London: Sage, 87-106.

Session: Paper session
Identity 1
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 12