Volume 10   Number 1     Summer 2017

Analysing Three-Dimensional Meaning-Making of the Ruptured Life Course: Case Study of the Adoption of Disability Identity as Multivoiced Process

Maija Korhonen & Katri Komulainen
University of Eastern Finland

pp. 19-42

Abstract. Dialogical researchers have proposed a new theoretical foundation for the psychology of the life course (Zittoun et al., 2013) that sees a person’s life moving along three intertwining dimensions: time, space and degrees of reality (AS IS, AS IF). Yet, empirical methods for analysing the dialogical meaning-making of the life course are not fully developed. Based on a case study of a life course interview, we aim to demonstrate the dialogicality of the self and the adoption of a disability identity, in particular. Our analysis shows that the identity reconstruction after acquired disability as a life course rupture occurs in autodialogue between a multiplicity of I-positions, involving various inner-Others (e.g., ‘healthy people’ and ‘disabled people’ as generalised others, a group of peers as actual others). The temporal hierarchy between I-positions (their location in the past, present and future) includes patterns of dominance and asymmetrical power-relations in a way that serves functions of establishing the moral value of the self and creating coherence between the pre- and post-disability self. The adoption of a disabled identity can be conceptualised as developmental transition – a process which involves identity transformation and learning. It appears as changes in self-awareness of the alternative, but unwanted, silenced and rejected AS IS and AS IF positions (such as I-as a victim), which entails an emotional commitment to the gradually undertaken survivor-position.


Keywords: Life course, disability as rupture, dialogical meaning-making, I-position, developmental transition, life story, case study, narrative