The problem of a subjective authenticity and the articulation of belonging among the Irish in England-a psychosocial approach

2015-11-20T15:12:24Z (GMT) by Marc Scully
This article presents the question of identity and authenticity as a problematic one, capable of investigation through a psychosocial lens. “Authenticity,” as explored by Erickson (1995) and Weigert (2009), may be understood as a commitment to self-values, meaning and motivation. Feeling “true to oneself” thus becomes an intensely personal affective project, which remains theoretically the preserve of the individual subject, and thus incapable of challenge by others. However, as identity is inherently social, there is a need to interrogate the affective nature of belonging to a collective identity. In particular, I consider how this personalised sense of authenticity may come into conflict with the need to have one’s personal identity recognised as authentic within the wider set of meaning-makings around the collectivity. I argue that this problem of authenticity and belonging may arise in the interplay between the personal and the collective in three ways: reflection, recognition and ownership. Any articulation of belonging to a collective identity whilst maintaining a personally “felt” authenticity must negotiate these three aspects. In this article, I develop these ideas through my own recent research on discourses of authenticity among the Irish in England. Drawing on Wetherell’s (2012) recent articulation of the affective-discursive, I explore how one second-generation Irish woman articulates her experiences of “belonging” and personal “authenticity” in interview talk. I argue that the resolution of dilemmas around the affective and collective nature of authenticity can be usefully investigated by attending to the co-construction of the interview between participant and interviewer. The positioning of the interviewer and the power dynamics of the interview thus become key modes of enquiry in the psychosocial analysis of authenticity.