Self-discipline and identity work in theatre: a study of an Italian theatre production

Cinque, Silvia (2018) Self-discipline and identity work in theatre: a study of an Italian theatre production. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis is the product of a four-year PhD research project grounded in Organisation and Management Theory (OMT). The project examines the relationship between self-discipline and identity work in the precarious and economically challenging setting of theatre through the analytical lens of narrative. The arguments are theoretically informed by a Foucauldian reading of discipline and identity, and they build on the existing critical and interpretivist accounts that discuss these two constructs.

Empirically, the inquiry draws on evidence collected in a theatre production. Specifically, the investigation shadowed a newly established theatre company as its members rehearsed to stage their first play. The aim of the empirical work was to examine how the actors, both those in the theatre and more generally, under precarious conditions, dealt with the tensions inherent in their work; tensions which stimulated their identity work. Information in the fieldwork was accessed through interviews and observations and analysed through a relatively open grounded approach followed by narrative analysis.

The findings indicate the presence of several contradictions in theatre, many of which can be understood as tributaries of the dominant overarching tension between the craft (theatre-as-a-craft) and the job (theatre-as-a-job). This is also a fundamental identity tension that stimulates an active work upon one’s sense of self and identity. The findings also expose three central narratives – religious, therapeutic and political – through which the actors deal with this meaningful existential tension permeating their work and lives. Through these narratives the actors attempt to manage the ‘craft-job’ tension, while disciplining their selves through sacrifice, self-care and responsibility.

This inquiry extends our current understanding of the relationship between self-discipline and identity work by i) interrogating what stimulates identity work in the artistic setting of theatre, and what is the nature of this identity tension; ii) describing how the actors do identity work through different organisational and personal narratives; iii) discussing why and with what implications they do identity work for their selves and the organisation. In doing so, the study offers an opportunity to understand different disciplinary movements of the self at work and how these are coupled with different and overlapping identity narratives.

The study theoretically contributes to our understanding of identity work as a form of self-discipline, or in Foucauldian terms as a ‘technology of the self’. This self-discipline is teleological and it is associated with a movement of identity work that is permanent in the sense it is ongoing and never-ending. Empirically, the three narratives of theatre and the actor expose different forms of self-disciplinary identity work, which shed light on the relationship between constraining and enabling forms of discipline. Practically, this inquiry exposes the cultural foundations of religious, therapeutic and political narratives of work and self, showing the implications these have in precarious, ambiguous, yet highly meaningful settings. The focus on the actors’ narratives reveals what it means to construct one’s self and one’s work in terms of sacrifice, self-care and responsibility, as well as the struggles individuals do in being, at one time, martyrs, patients and citizens.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Nyberg, Daniel
Starkey, Ken P.
Keywords: Self-control; Identity (Psychology),Social aspects; Actors, Italy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 50411
Depositing User: Cinque, Silvia
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2018 04:40
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 18:47

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