Trajectories of Persons and Practices: Sociohistoric Perspectives of Disciplinary Development.

Chapter 8 | Conclusions and Implications

Conclusions: Developing Disciplinary Identity

Given the strong links that Scollon (2001a, 2001b) and other scholars (Holland et al., 1998; Wenger, 1998) posit between participation in practice and the construction of self, it seems safe to say that these narratives are as much about the continual fashioning and re-fashioning of disciplinary identity as they are about the production of disciplinary practice. Wenger (1998) eloquently captured the identity work inherent in engagement with disciplinary activity, as well as the historical dimension of those efforts, when he wrote, “we are always simultaneously dealing with specific situations, participating in the histories of certain practices, and involved in becoming certain persons” (p. 155).

In Lindsey’s case, her identity as an artist figured prominently in shaping her disciplinary pathway across graphic design, literary analysis, and creative writing. It was her sense of herself as an artist that prompted her to initially pursue a major in graphic design. Her decision to shift her undergraduate major to English was driven by her sense that it would prepare her for a number of careers, but also because she recognized that reusing the discursive practices from graphic design to assemble her papers for literature classes allowed her to extend her trajectory of identification as an artist into those engagements. Her identity as an artist was also at play in the writing she did for the graduate creative writing class she took. Her reuse of her physical manipulation practice for creative writing, and the many other elements from her experiences with art, allowed her to draw her work as an artist into her participation as a creative writer, thereby allowing her to extend her trajectory of identification as an artist into that engagement as well.

In Terri’s case, her desire to be an effective patient advocate, which involves the ability to see “the whole patient,” was central to how she understood her identity as a health care professional. From her perspective, that identity was not always readily afforded by the key documents she acted with as a nurse. It was the representations of patients she offered in her poems, her science fiction, her autobiographical memoir, her religious devotional, and the multimedia family video she created that allowed her to extend that trajectory of identification into her nursing activities. From this perspective, Terri’s material history of acting with patients across multiple engagements allowed her to author herself as a health care professional who could advocate for her patients, and, further, to challenge the way those documents like the flowsheet position both the patients and the people who provide their care.

What emerges from these narratives is a strong sense that disciplinary selves do not emerge solely from participation with an autonomous disciplinary community, but rather from histories of participation and identification with multiple engagements. Fashioning a disciplinary self is not about severing those histories of participation in order to begin a history of engagement with a discipline, but rather about the continually ongoing work of constructing and maintaining a way of being in the world that can encompass all of those histories, whether they co-exist harmoniously or in tension with one another. Like disciplinary practices, disciplinary identities are heterogeneously situated and complexly mediated. As such, lifelong histories of participation across an expansive literate landscape do not disappear as people craft disciplinary selves. Or, to say this another way, there are no places in which people's social histories are reduced solely to the identities offered up by dominant disciplinary maps; no points where people are ever only creative writers, only nurses, only engineers.

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