Identity and action: Help-seeking requests in calls to a victim support service
journal contributionposted on 21.02.2022, 21:39 authored by Emma TennentEmma Tennent
The nature of the link between identity and action is a fundamental question for social science. One focus in psychology is how actions like seeking help are implicated in matters of identity. This paper presents a discursive psychology study of identity and help in social interaction. Drawing on a corpus of nearly 400 recorded calls to a victim support helpline, I analysed how participants oriented to the link between identity and help. With attention to epistemic, deontic, and affective relations between participants, I analysed how identity was demonstrably relevant and procedurally consequential for building and interpreting help-seeking requests. Participants displayed an understanding that seeking help from Victim Support necessarily implicates identity. Callers’ identities as victims or clients rendered their help-seeking accountable and invoked identities for call-takers as representatives of a support service. The findings show that identity and help are mutually constitutive. Seeking help constituted callers’ identities as victims; and their identities as victims constituted their requests for help. I suggest that analysing identity and help in social interaction provides evidence for the mutually constitutive link between identity and action.