What is “Positioning Theory”
In 2015, at the inaugural Positioning Theory Symposium,Professor Rom Harré spoke on the history and trajectory of positioning theory – view here on You Tube
In 2012, Professor Rom Harré defined positioning theory as being:
“…based on the principle that not everyone involved in a social episode has equal access to rights and duties to perform particular kinds of meaningful actions at that moment and with those people. In many interesting cases, the rights and duties determine who can use a certain discourse mode…A cluster of short-term disputable rights, obligations and duties is called a ‘position’”. (2012: 193)
Moghaddam and Harré (2010: 2) stated that positioning theory is about “how people
use words (and discourse of all types) to locate themselves and others”. Further, that is “it is with words that we ascribe rights and claim them for ourselves and place duties on others” (p. 3). Positioning has direct moral implications, such as some person or group being located as ‘trusted’ or ‘distrusted’, ‘with us’ or ‘against us’, ‘to be saved’ or ‘to be wiped out’” (Moghaddam and Harré, 2010: 2).
Positioning theory is a social constructionist approach (Slocum and Van Langenhove, 2003) that began to emerge in the 1980s primarily in the area of gender studies:
“One of the first scholars to illustrate the workings of positioning theory was psychologist Wendy Hollway, who demonstrated how people take up and negotiate their gender-related places in conversations. Social psychologists Jonathan Potter and Margaret Wetherell, psychologists Rom Harré and Bronwyn Davies, and sociologist Luk Van Langenhove are most often seen as the founders of positioning theory. They share a social-constructionist approach to how communication shapes identity”. (Kroløkke, 2009: 765)
Slocum-Bradley (2010) states, “if we understand how we construct social reality, we can construct more consciously to sustain norms that promote the ends we profess to desire” (p. 81).
Since the late 1990s, Positioning Theory has been seen to allow “for a very natural expansion of scale, from the analysis of person-to-person encounters to the unfolding of interactions between nation states” (Harré, Moghaddam, Pilkerton Cairnie, Rothbart and Sabat, 2009: 6).
Although originating in the field of social psychology it has had widespread application over the last decade or so (Moghaddam and Harré, 2010). It has especially been taken up in the field of education but has also included research in areas as varied as anthropology (e.g. Handelman, 2008), journalism (e.g. Miller,2013; Weizman, 2008) midwifery (Phillips and Hays, 2008), organizational change studies (Zelle, 2009), workplace agency (Redman, 2013), political identity studies (e.g. Slocum-Bradley, 2008), and recently, public relations and strategic communication (e.g. James 2014; Leitch and Motion, 2010; Tsetsura, 2012; Wise and James, 2013).
Chandler, P. & Redman, C. (2012) Teaching teachers for the future: modelling and exploring immersive personal learning networks. Australian Educational Computing, 27 (3) 54-62
Day, D. & Kjaerbeck, S. (2013). Positioning in the conversation analytic approach, Narrative Inquiry, 23 (1), 16-39.
Fawns, R., Jaques M., Redman, C., Sadler, J. & Rodrigues, S. (2005). Partnerships in Pedagogy and Research in Professional – Personal Identity Formation in Early Secondary Teaching. In S Rodrigues (Ed.) International Models of Teacher Professional Development in Science Education: Changes influenced by politics, pedagogy and innovation. Nova Science Publishers, Inc New York, 15-33.
Handelman, D (2008). Afterword: Returning to cosmology – thoughts on the positioning of belief. Social Analysis, 52(1): 181–95.
Harré, R. (2012) Positioning theory: moral dimensions of social-cultural psychology. In J. Valsiner (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology. New York: Oxford University, pp. 191–206.
Harré, R., Moghaddam, F., Pilkerton Cairnie, T., Rothbart, D. and Sabat, S. (2009) Recent advances in positioning theory. Theory and Psychology, 19(1): 5–31. doi: 10.1177/0959354308101417.
Harré, R. and Van Langenhove, L. (1999) Positioning Theory: Moral contexts of intentional action. Oxford: Blackwell.
Herbel-Eisenmann, B. A., Wagner, D., Johnson, K. R., Suh, H. & Figueras, H. (2015). Positioning in mathematics education: Revelations on an imported theory. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 89(2), 185-204.
Hirvonen, P. (2013) Positioning in an Inter-Professional Team Meeting: Examining Positioning Theory as a Methodological Tool for Micro-Cultural Group Studies. Qualitative Sociology Review 9(4), 100-114.
James, M. (2015) Situating a new voice in public relations: The application of positioning theory to research and practice. Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, 154 (Mar), 34-41.
James, M. (2014). Positioning Theory and Strategic Communications: A new approach to public relations research and practice. London: Routledge. (Read the Introduction online here – pdf)
James, M. (2012). Autoethnography: The story of applying a conceptual framework for intentional positioning to public relations practice. Public Relations Review 38 (4), 555–564 .http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2012.05.004 or draft full text available
James, M. (2011). A provisional conceptual framework for intentional positioning in public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research. 23:1, 93-118. Full text available
James, M. (2010). The Use of Intentional Positioning Techniques in Government Agencies’ Communication Campaigns. In the Proceedings of Bledcom – 17th International Public Relations Research Symposium, BledCom, Bled, Slovenia, 2-3 July 2010 / editors Dejan Verčič, Krishnamurthy, Sriramesh. – Ljubljana : Pristop, 2010.
Moghaddam, F. and Harré, R. (2010) Words, conflicts and political processes. In F. Moghaddam and R. Harré (eds) Words of Conflict, Words of War: How the language weuse in political processes sparks fighting. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.
Redman, C. (2014). The Melbourne Graduate School of Education – Master of Teaching model, In J. Ryan and M. Jones (Eds), Partnerships, Reflective Practice and the Place of Technology, Sense Publishers, The Netherlands, pp 11-29.
Redman, C. (Ed.) (2013). Planning for Science Learning Using the 5E’s: Incorporating ICT with Purpose and Confidence. In Successful Science Education Practices: Exploring what, why and how they worked, NOVA Science publishers, New York pp 17-37.
Redman, C., & Trapani, F. (2012). Pre-service teachers perceptions of the affordances of games as a new technology. In IFIP 2012 Manchester (p. 10).
Redman, C. and Fawns, R. (2010). How to use pronoun grammar analysis as a methodological tool for understanding the dynamic lived space of people. In S. Rodrigues (Ed) Using Analytical Frameworks for Classroom Research, Routledge, New York pp. 163 – 182.
Redman, C. (2008). The Research Planning Meeting. In R. Harré, F. Moghaddam and N. Lee (Eds.), Global Conflict Resolution Through Positioning Analysis. Springer New York, pp. 95-112
Redman, C. (2005). Planning Professional Development: meeting the needs of teacher participants. In S. Rodrigues (Ed.) International Models of Teacher Professional Development in Science Education: Changes influenced by politics, pedagogy and innovation. New York: Nova Science Publishers, pp. 189-209.
Redman, C. (2005). Planning Professional Development: meeting the needs of teacher participants. In S. Rodrigues (Ed.) International Models of Teacher Professional Development in Science Education: Changes influenced by politics, pedagogy and innovation. New York: Nova Science Publishers, pp. 189-209.Redman, C. (2008). The Research Planning Meeting. In R. Harré, F. Moghaddam and N. Lee (Eds.), Global Conflict Resolution Through Positioning Analysis. Springer New York, pp. 95-112
Rochette, E. & Redman, C. (2014). Female secondary students use of social networking as part of formal education: perspectives and opportunities. In Proceedings of 6th Annual EduLearn Conference on Education and New Technologies, 7th-9th July, 2014, Barcelona, Spain.
Symons, D., Peirce, R. & Redman, C. (2015). Positioning Theory as an Aid to Analysing Primary Students’ Interaction During Online Collaborative Learning, to be presented at the Computer Supported Collaborative Learning Conference Gothenburg, Sweden, June 7-11, 2015
Trapani, F. (2010). Teachers’ Umwelten in a Middle School: An Ethnographic Study of Teachers’ Umwelten in an Australian Middle School Setting. LAP Lambert Acad. Publ. Retrieved from http://books.google.com.au/books?id=dI8ORwAACAAJ
Trapani, F. (2012). Teacher’s Secret Stories: Using Conversations to disclose team and individual stories of planning. In C. Redman & S. Rodrigues (Eds.), Successful Science Education Practices Exploring What, What and How they worked. (1st ed.). Nova Publishers.
Wise, D. (2019). An Analysis of the Strengths and Weaknesses of Applying James’ Framework for Intentional Positioning in Public Relations. Special Issue: The relation between Social Representation Theory and Positioning Theory. Vol 28 No 1.
Wise, D. & James, M. (2013). Positioning a price on carbon: Applying a proposed hybrid method of positioning discourse analysis for public relations. Public Relations Inquiry. doi: 10.1177/2046147X13494966 vol. 2 no. 3 327-353 http://0-pri.sagepub.com.library.newcastle.edu.au/content/2/3/327.abstract
Second Positioning Theory Symposium July 2017 Oxford University, UK – Details
Inaugural Positioning Theory Symposium 6-8th July 2015 Bruges, Belgium