This article explores ‘identity’ and ‘identity work’ as analytical tools. Theoretically, identity is understood as the end product of continuing negotiations between individuals meeting in specific socio-cultural settings. Identity is thus the name of something both individual and social, fundamentally without essence, always unstable, never made once and for all.
With this starting point, the aim of the article is to explore a working vocabulary for describing identity work in daily social life – one that can be useful both in guiding observations throughout qualitative data collection, and in analytical work later on. The chosen metaphor is a spatial one – the concept of identity work is discussed as movements in a space structured by relationships between centres and peripheries, where individuals react to dangerous currents and work to find temporary anchorage.
identity, analytical vocabulary, male identity work, spatial metaphor, subject position, centripetal and peripetal movements, nodal points