Date of Award

2010

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Interdisciplinary Program

Advisor

Kristin M. Langellier

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth Allan

Third Committee Member

Bruce Henderson

Abstract

This study is a performance of identity analysis of 26 physically disabled professionals‘ open-ended personal narratives. Through adapting Riessman‘s five steps to narrative analysis to a performance methodology and applying Bamberg‘s narrative positioning, this study crystallizes the ongoing formation and re-formation of physically disabled professional identity in time, space, and discourse and the possibilities to reiterate, dismantle, and transform these meanings in future interactions. From a performance perspective, a story not only reflects reality, but is its own reality, constituting meaning and understanding in time and space. Physical disability is at once a personal experience and a shared cultural creation – the experience of a body through a body in relationship with other bodies. As bodies that are continually attended to, physical disabled personal narratives offer a means to analyze human identity from a state of hyper-embodiment in which the narrator is continually reminded of the implications of being fleshed. Three recurrent themes emerged through this analysis: making the professional story; making the body story; and making the gender story. Within each of these themes narrators performed the struggle over the anxiety that surfaces surrounding the physically disabled body within daily cultural interactions, illuminating disability as an embodied phenomenon that leaves human beings recurrently uncomfortable in our vulnerable skins. In making stories of profession, this anxiety manifests in the constitution of hero identities that position the physically disabled professional as a familiar caricature rather than a complex human being. In making stories of the body, the narrators grapple with who they are within and beyond embodiment, positioning their bodies as sources of personal identity, fulfillment, and disruption. In making stories of gender, narrators blurred the boundaries between the professional (public) and gendered (private) selves attending to the complexities of human embodiment and the dependency of identity on the bodies that perform them. The final analysis chapter weaves together phrases from the narrators to trace the constitution and re-constitution of physically disabled professional identity through interaction. The conclusion recommends re-creating institutional policies with the intention and ability to adapt to bodies changing across the workplace