Projecting an academic identity in some reflective genres

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Research on academic writing has long stressed the connection between writing and the creation of an author's identity (Ivanič, 1998; Hyland, 2010). Identity is said to be created from the texts we engage in and the linguistic choices we make, thus relocating it from hidden processes of cognition to its social construction in discourse. Issues of agency and conformity, stability and change, remain controversial, however. Some writers question whether there is an unchanging self lurking behind such discourse and suggest that identity is a "performance" (see for instance Butler, 1990) while others see identity as the product of dominant discourses tied to institutional practices (Foucault, 1972). All this has been of particular interest to teachers and researchers of EAP because students and academics alike often feel uncomfortably positioned, even alienated, by the conventions of academic discourse. They sometimes complain that the voice they are forced to use requires them to "talk like a book" by adopting a formal and coldly analytical persona. In this paper I want to explore how we construct an identity in three rather neglected academic genres where the requirements of anonymity and impersonality are more relaxed. In thesis acknowledgements, doctoral prize applications and bio statements, writers are exempted from formal conventions of disciplinary argument and have an opportunity to reveal something of how they want to be seen by others. My question is: What use do they make of with these opportunities?


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-30
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2011


    Research areas

  • Academic writing, Doctoral prize applications, Homepages, Identity, Thesis acknowledgements

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