Categorization and identification: The identity work of ‘business sellers’ on eBay

Corentin Curchod*, Gerardo Patriotta, Nicolas Neysen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article aims at gaining a better understanding of how, in a market environment, categorized actors construct their identity in relation to the category to which they are assigned. Drawing on extensive fieldwork conducted at eBay, we consider how the newly categorized ‘business sellers’ connected eBay’s framing of the category (categorical framing) to their subjective interpretations of it (categorical self). We find that business sellers perceived varying levels of discrepancy between categorical framing and categorical self, which led them to engage in processes of identification, identity work and disidentification. Based on our findings, we present a framework relating the level of perceived discrepancies to distinctive paths of identification and we draw implications for understanding the interaction of categorization and identification. The framework highlights how feelings of self-enhancement, injustice and alienation intervene in orienting individuals’ paths of identification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1293-1320
Number of pages28
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number11
Early online date17 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


  • alienation
  • categorization
  • eBay marketplace
  • identity work
  • injustice
  • self-enhancement


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