The concept of identity – Culture and Identity

Lesson objectiveTo explore the concept of identity
Lesson outcomes• Assess whether primary identities or secondary are more significant
• Evaluate social causes
• Explain what identity is

The concept

Jenkins (2008) states that “identity involves knowing who we are, knowing who others are, them knowing who we are, us knowing who they think we are and so on” (cited in Giddens and Sutton (2013)). As you can see – identity is complicated. Personality and identity are different. A person’s personality is a way in which they demonstrate or showcase their identity. Lawler (2014) emphasises that identity depends on our assessment of others – who is similar and different to us. Mead (1934) develops this and coined the term “I and Me”. The ‘I’, is the inner you (Mead tries to infer that this aspect of an individual is fixed and not influenced by external factors). ‘The self’ is the part of your identity that can change and is influenced by other factors. Thus our identity can be complex and consist of more than one part. Think about it this way, a person might act one way at home and another with friends so that they can fit in to the social group. Lawler also suggests that identity is can act of labelling others and by extension how we label ourselves. It can, therefore, impact decision e.g. marrying. These labels are especially important for Social Action Theorists, such as Becker (1997), who stipulates that these labels can become our “master status” or dominant status, not just by ourselves, but also others e.g. the media’s label of Muslims as terrorists.

Giddens and Sutton (2013) state that individual and/ or personal factors combined with social influence shape our identity. Lawler argues that identity is not an individual phenomenon, but instead is a societal one. In summary, Lawler suggests that life is a story and our identity is the character we wish to be in that story. Giddens and Sutton argue that there are two identities:

Primary – Formed in early socialisation by factors e.g. family. These are more fixed.

Secondary – Formed by secondary socialisation e.g. work. These are more fluid and changeable.

Therefore, identity is linked to socialisation in more than one way. Bauman (2004), a postmodernist, suggest that identities are becoming more unstable, fluid and changeable. Think about how globalisation can influence identity.

Here is an in depth resources that can offer more insight into identity.

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