The Construction of Collective Identify in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment

Dissertation Title

The Construction of Collective Identify in the British Parachute Regiment: A Storytelling Approach.


The aim of this thesis is to illustrate how stories and extracts from stories can be used to investigate issues centred on organisational identity in the British Parachute Regiment, the `tribe’ at the centre of this research.

This thesis employs a narratological approach (Brown, 2001) in an autoethnographic study (Ellis and Bochner, 2000) in which the author, as a member of the `tribe’ and as a scholar, is centrally implicated.

By adopting this methodology the thesis includes a reflexive examination of the author as a Paratrooper and as an emergent scholar. These identities can be understood as two constituents of his own parliament of selves’ (Mead, 1934). By using himself as `subject’ and conducting an analysis of his own `internal soliloquy’ (Athens, 1994), he was able to frame a study to explore and analyse his methodology, and to illuminate the processes of autoethnographic research on which he was embarked by reference to notions of reflexivity, paradigm incommensurability and representation.

The resultant story of the author’s research is an interpretive account, constructed between the `polyphonic’ voices of his brother Paratroopers who volunteered their stories as part of his research, and himself.

Data collection involved interviewing 68 other Paratroopers for between 30 and 120 minutes using a semi-structured interview schedule, either at their place of work or in their homes. These interviews were taped, fully transcribed and analysed using a form of grounded theory.

The interviews were conducted with three interconnected parts of the `tribe’ – full time serving soldiers of the Parachute Regiment, part-time members of the Territorial Battalion, and members of an extended `brotherhood’ of retired Paratroopers who were active members of the Parachute Regiment Association (PRA). I analyse my data using two theoretical frameworks.

  • First, the author makes use of Albert and Whetten’s (1985) understanding of organisational identity to interpret what Paratroopers believed to be central, distinctive and enduring about their Regiment and themselves. In so doing the author also considers issues of image (Dutton and Dukerich, 1991; Dutton et al., 1994) and reputation (Fombrun and Shanley, 1990).
  • Second, the employs Elsbach’s (1999) model of organisational identification (identification; disidentification; schizo-identification; and neutral-identification) to analyse individual-organisation relationships. In particular, he focuses on what he refers to as `strong’, `weak’ and the `dark side’ of organisational identification (cf. Dukerich, et al., 1999).

The author then conducts four readings of the data in which he has addressed:

  1. Issues of representation and credibility in autoethnographic research;
  2. Organisational narcissism (Brown, 1997);
  3. The symbolism inherent in the attire worn by Paratroopers both at work and play; and
  4. The `implied contract’ between Paratroopers and the Regiment (Watson, 2001) with particular reference to `breaches’ and `violations, ‘ which in turn affect the strength of organisational identification.

Finally, the author draws some conclusions regarding his research contribution.

You can read the full research Construction of Collective Identify in the British Parachute Regiment (Thornborrow, 2005).


Thornborrow, T. (2005) The Construction of Collective Identify in the British Parachute Regiment: A Storytelling Approach. Doctoral Thesis. Nottingham University. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 06 November, 2018].


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