Life histories of people who stutter : on becoming someone.
This study explores participants' experiences of stuttering in their lifeworlds over time through the lens of self-identity formations. The critical questions raised are: How do participants form their self-identities in their lifeworlds over time in relation to stuttering? In the context of their self-identity formations, how do they negotiate stuttering? A narrative life history methodology was used with intention to access personal, temporal and social dimensions of experience. Seven adult participants, two female and five male participants, with histories of living with stuttering since childhood, were invited to share their stories. Their personal experiences are embedded in diverse lifeworlds in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, a context making a sociopolitical transition from apartheid to democracy. The data was produced through retrospective accounts of their experiences via a series of dialogical interviews. Issues of empathy, power, and positioning and quality in the research process are problematised. The data was analysed at three levels. The first level of analysis entailed a narrative analysis of interview data, represented as seven individual research stories. The second level of analysis is a cross-case analysis using the seven research stories for the purposes of theorising. The outcomes of the third level of analysis are abstractions and explanatory concepts which respond to the critical questions in a general way. The genesis of two self-identity trajectories, self-identity as DisOther and self-identity as Able/Potential are traced over time. The biographical, contextual and social forces shaping self-identity formations and participants' actions in negotiating stuttering are illuminated. The self-identity trajectories are unique in the context of each biography. However, the relative prominence of self-identity formation as DisOther across cases in school years was evident. In contrast, self-identity as Able/Potential became prominent, during adulthood, for some participants. The experience is rendered as complex and fluid through a set of abstractions and explanatory concepts. These concepts foreground the changing and multiple relationships between self-identity formations, the influence of social forces shaping self-identity, the impact critical catalysts shaping self-identity formations, and strategic manipulation of self-identity in negotiating stuttering. In particular, the strategies to negotiate stuttering successfully are examined. The limitations of the study and potential application of this theoretical offering in the research, educational and clinical domains of Speech-Language Pathology are discussed.