Anna Charalambidou

Negotiating peer-group identities in the later life: the case of Painful Self Disclosures


The proposed presentation falls within the topic of ‘Language and identity’ and will examine identity construction in casual interactions of elderly women with a focus on tellings of ill health and death. The data used are self-recorded conversations of an all-female group of Greek Cypriot women in their 70s, with a long interactional history. This research works within a constructivist theoretical framework, where identities (including the aged self) are constructed, negotiated, and generated through interaction. A micro-analytic, phenomenological analysis is employed (ethnomethodology, see e.g. Sacks 1995). The occurrence and implications of painful self disclosures will be explored, attempting to approach covert peer-group and age identifications. The topic of painful self disclosures, also influenced by previous research on troubles-telling (e.g. Jefferson 1984), has received significant attention in the past two decades in the field of ageing and communication research. ‘Painful’ self disclosures are defined as ‘the revealing of a cluster of categories of personal and often intimate information on one’s own ill health, bereavement, immobility, loneliness, and so on’ and consider them a formulation of age identity (Coupland et al. 1991:61). After examining the topics, frequency and participant of PSD, the structural organisation of the disclosures will be analysed concentrating on prior and upcoming contexts, and modes of disclosure. Consequently, an alternative to the existing models for classifying painful self disclosures will be proposed. Moreover, the function of humour in the construction of ‘painful’ topics will be illustrated. Finally, the contribution of these tellings to identity work will be explored. REFERENCES Coupland, N., Coupland, J. and Giles, H. (1991). Language, society, and the elderly: discourse, identity, and ageing. Oxford, UK; Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell. Jefferson, Gail (1984). On stepwise transit ion from talk about a trouble to inappropriately next-positioned matters. In J. Maxwell Atkinson and John Heritage (eds.), Structures of social action: studies in conversation analysis 191-222. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sacks, H. (1995). Lectures on conversation. Oxford: Blackwell.

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