Polyphony and Polyphasia in Self and Knowledge

  • Alicia Renedo London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine


The purpose in this paper is to contribute towards an understanding of the link beween plurality of self and knowledge. The paper relates the concept of cognitive polyphasia with Bakhtin's views on positioning and the polyphony of the person, and Hermans and Kempen's concept of the dialogical self. It links dialogical epistemology and ontology to argue that, (i) polyphony and polyphasia of self and knowledge are two sides of the same process, and (ii) our ability to position ourselves in relation to the knowledge of others explains how the meanings, practices and identities that co-exist within individuals and groups are put to use, enabling us to function in multiple relationships and contexts. The paper concludes by suggesting that identity and knowledge are inseparable from both the multiple relationships in which they develop and from processes of self-other positioning. Research on expert knowledge of homelessness amongst professionals working in the UK voluntary sector is briefly examined to illustrate the proposed theoretical argument.

Author Biography

Alicia Renedo, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

ALICIA RENEDO is a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical
Medicine. Her research interests are centred on health and the social psychology of community, with an emphasis on the relationships between identity and social representations. She is funded by NIHR CLAHRC for Northwest London to investigate patient and public involvement in healthcare research and service improvement (National Institute for Healthcare Research, Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care). A core part of her current work is the critical appraisal of the concepts of involvement, empowerment and participation, with an emphasis on what 'involvement' in healthcare means in practice