Critical Self Positioning Tool

Reflection on your social background and its influence on your interactions
Anatoli Miske, Iconfinder, edited by Samuel Whitcomb

This tool offers three concrete exercises that can be used to reflect upon one's social background and identity and how these influence interactions with others. These exercises are not only suitable to practice with students but are also important to reflect upon your position as a teacher and your interactions with students in the context of seminars, supervision, and knowledge transfer in general.

The three exercises are present in the form of "identity wheels" that complement each other. It is recommended to follow the order as suggested below, yet this can be adjusted according to the needs and prior knowledge of the group.

1. Social Identity Wheel

This wheel is meant for you to think about and reflect upon what social identities can shape you as a person, when these become explicitly visible and/or sensible, and how these identities take shape in relation to others.

2. Research Identity Wheel

This wheel is meant to think about the different and overlapping social identities of researchers and participants in research locations and to think about these in relation to the process of data collection (interviews, focus groups, participant observation, etc.) or knowledge production. This exercise is particularly suitable as a preparation for fieldwork.

3. Personal identity Wheel

This third exercise is meant to break with the often-used categories of social identity that we have seen in the social and research identity wheels (ethnicity, class, gender, etc.), and to see which other forms of (self-)identification are possible, such as with locations, food, subcultures, or hobbies.


This tool was created by Kathrine van den Bogert, Elke Linders, and Nicole Sanches from Utrecht University.

You can find the link to the Critical Self-Positioning tool  here.

  1. The tool helps in understanding how the multiple backgrounds, positionalities, and vectors of difference can co-shape the lived experiences of individuals within a social context.
  2. Participants gain an understanding of how their individual experiences connect to others, and how they can build a strong foundation for their research work that values all voices, experiences, and differences.
  3. Participants also gain an in-depth understanding of their own identity, not just concerning their communities but also communities that are not their own.

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