We Are Standing Together in Front

How Scientists and Research Groups Form Identities in the Life Sciences.

  • Sarah Maria Schönbauer University of Vienna


Reputation building and visibility represent pressing requirements for living and working in academia today. These demands have been key to the corporate world and are acted upon through ‘branding’ practices. ‘Branding’ has further been shown to impact on employees and workplace identities. In academia, researching identity work is especially important because of a competitive funding climate that requires research groups to resemble an outstanding image and reputation. At the same time, stable jobs are scarce, bringing forth insecure and volatile environments characterized for example by temporary limited contracts and required internationalisation in scientific careers. Based on ethnographic work in globally recognized life science departments, I explore how individual and departmental identities relate. Thereby, I propose the concept of ‘enrolling’, that conveys how a research unit acts as a ‘brand’, and show how ‘enrolling practices’ produces stability through coherence and distinctiveness in individual and collective identities. My analysis thus allows a critical reflection on academia and the re-orderings in today´s universities that create pervasive demands for living and working