This study investigates the dynamic processes of identity construction and discursive positioning in the course of life story interviews. The authors argue that these processes affect both interviewees and interviewers, and that the same task in a similar setting yields quite different activities depending on the interplay of agency and structure as evident from the analysis of the interaction between the interviewees and the interviewers. In this argument, we specifically draw on sociocultural theory and activity theory as outlined by Lantolf and Pavlenko (2001).
The data for the study come from the open-ended life story interviews with Russian and English monolinguals and with Russian-English bilinguals, elicited by the authors who have been research assistants in a project investigating narrative and cognitive language proficiency in the language of these speakers (Pavlenko, in progress). We interpret the data using the microgenetic analytic framework and describe how this theoretical approach may allow for more comprehensive insights into the dialectic relationship between humans and interaction in which they engage, including the language classroom setting. We conclude by questioning the “fixed” status of tasks and drawing implications for second language teaching and research.