Identity formation in a company city
: a discursive approach

  • Elham Moonesirust

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The purpose of this thesis is to examine the different ways that employee identity is formed within organisationally based discourses in a company city. This research takes a qualitative interpretivist approach, within which ‘realities’ are understood to be made through discourse. It draws on prior scholarly works in the field of discourse and identity, Foucauldian approaches to the constitution of the subject, power relations, control and resistance. The research data consist of forty-five semi-structured interviews and documentary evidence, together with informal observations and the researcher’s field notes, in the form of a case study. The research account pertains to talk about utilising symbols in forming identities, normalisation of desired identities as well as paternalism and governmentality. These findings have been construed through an interpretive analysis guided by the principles of the Critical Management Studies (CMS) tradition. In the discussion, two readings interpret the case study; one is focused on the different ways that organisational discourses shape the meaning of an ‘employee’ and how individuals form their identities and that of others by drawing on these discourses. The other is concerned with the totalising quality (Goffman, 1959) of the organisation and the institutionlisation of life (Burrell, 1988) in the company city as well as how employee conduct is determined and identities are shaped in this context. The primary contribution of this thesis is empirical, providing a case study of a company city and addressing the absence of this context in extant studies of identity, despite its significance for our understanding of the ever increasing influence of organisationally based discourses in shaping employee identities. Drawing on existing theories on identity and identity work, this study produces insights on methods of othering in individuals’ identity work and examines the relations of power embedded in these. It further makes a methodological contribution to the organisation studies literature through applying an alternative method of studying employee governmentality by attending to the external context of the organisation. I conclude by emphasising the necessity of investigating the external, sociocultural and political context of organisations when examining individuals’ identities and acknowledging work organisations as being only one source in employee identity formation processes.
Date of Award2 Mar 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorYiannis Gabriel (Supervisor) & Andrew Brown (Supervisor)

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