Mallett O & Wapshott R (2011) The challenges of identity work: Developing Ricoeurian narrative identity in organisations. Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization, 11 (3), pp. 271-288. http://www.ephemerajournal.org/contribution/challenges-identity-work-developing-ricoeurian-narrative-identity-organisations
In this paper we develop Paul Ricoeur’s approach to ‘narrative identity’ to explore questions of complex and conflictual identity work in organisations. We read Ricoeur’s self-reflexive conception of narrative mediating between two ‘poles’ of identity within his discussion of a threefold, hermeneutic process of mimesis involving prefiguration, configuration and refiguration. With reference to the film Infernal Affairs (2002), deployed as an ‘extreme case’, we demonstrate how these ideas can aid understanding of identity work in challenging organisational contexts. We argue that a narrative approach is useful for understanding the processes involved in identity work in organisations, especially around occupational roles where employees’ work requires them to act in ways that cause tension with their pre-existing sense of self. In doing so, we contribute to discussions of identity in organisational contexts and demonstrate the value of Ricoeur’s ideas.