Wetherell, Margaret


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I began my academic life in new Zealand and did a BA and an MA at the University of Auckland before winning a Commonwealth Scholarship to fund PhD study in Britain. I came to Britain in 1978 and much to my surprise I never left.
My PhD was at the University of Bristol supervised by John Turner. I benefited enormously from the intellectual environment constructed there by Turner, Tajfel and Giles and from the many hours in dark and dingy pubs analysing social psychology and radical politics with my fellow PhD students, most notably Stephen Reicher. Like many at the time, I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the use of the experimental method although my PhD was an experimental study of group influence.
In 1980 I was appointed to a lectureship at St Andrews University and began collaborating with Jonathan Potter. Over the next 10-15 years this led to the development of discourse analysis for social psychology as a new qualitative method and approach to social psychological method and we published several books and many articles in that area. Our most influential book, Discourse and Social Psychology, was published in 1987. Our understanding of discourse analysis was influenced by debates in philosophy and literary theory, by the emerging discipline of ethnomethodology in sociology and by exciting developments in French social theory. Initially, as the work was so new and psychologists were so wedded to current definitions of scientific method, it was hard to get work published and we were seen as very marginal indeed. The last twenty years have been a gradual process of moving from the margins to the centre as psychology has changed.
In 1988 I began work at the Open University and was awarded a Personal Chair in 2001. Working at the Open University has been an enriching experience because of the nature of the students and the OU ethos. Also there are my colleagues in the Social Sciences Faculty and life would be much less interesting without their comradeship, intellect and scholarship. My recent work has been on masculinity and the formation of men's identities in collaboration with Nigel Edley.
In 1999 I was appointed Editor of the British Journal of Social Psychology with Stephen Reicher. A further very important experience was helping to develop the journal Feminism and Psychology and working through the implications of feminism for psychology with the editorial collective headed up by Sue Wilkinson. Similarly, in the 1980s I did a lot of work in New Zealand on ideologies of racism and the legacy of colonialism reflected in New Zealanders' understandings of the indigenous Maori people.
My main interest is in identity and the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and where we belong. I see the main contribution of my work as highlighting the social bases of human action and the ways in which our psychology is constructed from social relations.
Written by: Margaret Wetherell