Developing Researcherhood: Identity Tensions and Identity Work of Women Academics Reflecting on Their Researcher Identity




hermeneutic phenomenology, socioanalytic research, social dream drawing, researcher identity, identity theory, work identity, identity work, researcherhood, reflexivity


In this article, I explore the researcher identity of senior women academics in a South African institution of higher education. The aim was to uncover the identity tensions they experience in relation to being a researcher and to understand how they respond to and resolve these tensions. Three focus groups, based on the socioanalytic method of social dream drawing, provided the data. Data were analyzed through hermeneutic phenomenological reflection. Identity theory was applied as a conceptual framework to guide my interpretation of the data. Through their collective reflection on being researchers, the women became cognizant of identity tensions and their engagement with these reflected intrapersonal processing akin to identity work. In the findings, I highlight purposeful, collective identity work as a resource that enabled these women to re-construct self-defeating gendered conflicts in their researcherhood. By uncovering their identity tensions and related emotions, a sense of researcher self-efficacy emerged. They consequently reframed research success as meaningful self-expression and knowledge dissemination. I propose that collective identity work is a valuable endeavor for women researchers because it facilitates role identity development and a collective voice in responding to the demanding and constantly changing academic work context.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Helene Antoni Barnard, University of South Africa

Antoni BARNARD is an industrial and counseling psychologist registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. She is a full professor in the Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology at the University of South Africa. Her research interests include women, identity, well-being, coping and adjustment in the workplace.




How to Cite

Barnard, H. A. (2019). Developing Researcherhood: Identity Tensions and Identity Work of Women Academics Reflecting on Their Researcher Identity. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 20(3).