The construction of collective identity in the British Parachute Regiment: a storytelling approach

Thornborrow, Thomas (2005) The construction of collective identity in the British Parachute Regiment: a storytelling approach. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The aim of this thesis is to illustrate how stories and extracts from stories can be used to investigate issues centred on organisational identity in the British Parachute Regiment, the `tribe' at the centre of this research. This thesis employs a narratological approach (Brown, 2001) in an autoethnographic study (Ellis and Bochner, 2000) in which I myself, as a member of the `tribe' and as a scholar, am centrally implicated. By adopting this methodology the thesis includes a reflexive examination of me as a Paratrooper and as an emergent scholar. These identities can be understood as two constituents of my own `parliament of selves' (Mead, 1934). By using myself as `subject' and conducting an analysis of my own `internal soliloquy' (Athens, 1994), I was able to frame a study to explore and analyse my methodology, and to illuminate the processes of autoethnographic research on which I was embarked by reference to notions of reflexivity, paradigm incommensurability and representation. The resultant story of my research is an interpretive account, constructed between the `polyphonic' voices of my brother Paratroopers who volunteered their stories as part of my research, and myself. Data collection involved interviewing 68 other Paratroopers for between 30 and 120 minutes using a semi-structured interview schedule, either at their place of work or in their homes. These interviews were taped, fully transcribed and analysed using a form of grounded theory. The interviews were conducted with three interconnected parts of the `tribe' - full time serving soldiers of the Parachute Regiment, part-time members of the Territorial Battalion, and members of an extended `brotherhood' of retired Paratroopers who were active members of the Parachute Regiment Association (PRA). I analyse my data using two theoretical frameworks. First, I make use of Albert and Whetten's (1985) understanding of organisational identity to interpret what Paratroopers believed to be central, distinctive and enduring about their Regiment and themselves. In so doing I also consider issues of image (Dutton and Dukerich, 1991; Dutton et al., 1994) and reputation (Fombrun and Shanley, 1990). Second, I employ Elsbach's (1999) model of organisational identification (identification; disidentification; schizo-identification; and neutral-identification) to analyse individual-organisation relationships. In particular, I focus on what I refer to as `strong', `weak' and the `dark side' of organisational identification (cf. Dukerich, et al., 1999). I then conduct four readings of the data in which I have addressed: (1) issues of representation and credibility in autoethnographic research; (2) organisational narcissism (Brown, 1997) (3) the symbolism inherent in the attire worn by Paratroopers both at work and play; and (4) the `implied contract' between Paratroopers and the Regiment (Watson, 2001) with particular reference to ‘breaches' and `violations, ' which in turn affect the strength of organisational identification. Finally, I draw some conclusions regarding my research contribution.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Brown, A.D.
Humphreys, M.
Keywords: Parachute Regiment, Storytelling, Group identity
Subjects: H Social sciences > HM Sociology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 12314
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2011 13:41
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2017 07:40

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