Fracturing the real-self↔fake-self dichotomy: Moving toward "crystallized" organizational discourses and identities

Sarah Tracy, Angela Trethewey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

219 Scopus citations


This article begins with the following question: Why, even with the proliferation of poststructuralist theoretical understandings of identity, do people routinely talk in terms of "real" and "fake" selves? Through an analysis of critical empirical studies of identity-construction processes at work, this article makes the case that the real-self↔fake-self dichotomy is created and maintained through organizational talk and practices and, in turn, serves as a constitutive discourse that produces four subject positions with both symbolic and material consequences: strategized self-subordination, perpetually deferred identities, "autodressage," and the production of "good little copers." The article challenges scholars to reflexively consider the ways they may perpetuate the dichotomy in their own academic practices. Furthermore, the authors present the metaphor of the "crystallized self" as an alternative to the real-self↔fake-self dichotomy and suggest that communication scholars are well-poised to develop alternative vocabularies, theories, and understandings of identity within the popular imagination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-195
Number of pages28
JournalCommunication Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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