Any sociologists/sociology majors on here?
April 9, 2005 1:11 AM   Subscribe

My mind is a total blank and I can't think of theorists that explainined ideas of identity and how identity is constructed, if anyone knows and owuld like to share I would be eternally grateful!
posted by bluehermit to Society & Culture (16 answers total)
posted by juv3nal at 2:32 AM on April 9, 2005

oops missed the sociology tag.
posted by juv3nal at 2:33 AM on April 9, 2005

Isn't identity a philosophical question?
posted by timyang at 2:45 AM on April 9, 2005

Foremost is probably Mead's Mind, Self, and Society which is seminal reading on Symbolic Interaction Theory.

Tajfel and Turner's Social Identity Theory also leaps to mind. At the bottom of this discussion is a link to more theory on interpersonal communication and relations that may be useful to you.
posted by melissa may at 2:56 AM on April 9, 2005

Michel Foucault and Sigmund Freud?
posted by Beki at 3:11 AM on April 9, 2005

Turn to symbolic interactionism (SI) here. melissa may is exactly right-- Mead. See also: Blumer, John Dewey, Cooley, DuBois, Park, Howard Becker, Anselm Strauss, Simmel, Goffman.

SI theory is premised on the idea that identity is made through our interactions with others and with society. It is one of the tradtions from which social constructionism was born-- that is, "reality" is less important than how our lives (identity, subjectivity, etc.) are experienced and lived based on our particular societal circumstances. See for example, WI Thomas' (1928) famous essay, "Things defined as real are real in their consequences."

The Chicago School in sociology became known for looking at segments of society that created sub-cultures of people with different identities-- e.g., the street corner society by Park, Boys in White by Strauss and others.

Sounds like a final exam, yes?
posted by picklebird at 4:44 AM on April 9, 2005

He's not a sociologist, or even a theorist, but Milan Kundera wrote an interesting book about this, Immortality.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:49 AM on April 9, 2005

Is "identity" the same as consciousness? If so, then it's a hot topic with Evolutionary Psycholohists and philosophers -- people like Daniel Dennett ("Consciousness Explained") and Steven Pinker ("How the Mind Works").

The current theory is anti-Cartesian: there is no central "I" (as in "I think therefor I am"). Instead, multiple "modules" and "programs" in the brain duke it out for control. Out of this complex process, the feeling of consciousness emerges. The theory also states that physical processes occur first -- i.e. when something good happens to us, the corners of out mouth turn upwards. Then the brain checks out what is happening and saysm, "hmm ... I seem to be smiling, so I guess I am happy."
posted by grumblebee at 7:08 AM on April 9, 2005

If you want more historical models, there's chapter 27 in Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Hume's section on Personal Identity on Treatise of Human Nature. Modern day? Maybe Judith Butler's work on performative gender (Gender Trouble? Theory books long since banished to the garage).
posted by bibliowench at 7:32 AM on April 9, 2005

When I think of identity theory, I think of Jean Piaget. Is he the one you're thinking of?
posted by jdroth at 8:50 AM on April 9, 2005


Maybe more personality than identity...I'm a law student so what am I doing answering anyway?
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 9:10 AM on April 9, 2005

Pierre Bourdieu? Not so much identity as class-identity.
posted by mokujin at 9:51 AM on April 9, 2005

Another vote here for symbolic interactionism. Especially Goffman and Becker, who have always been a couple of my favorites. Becker's Outsiders and Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and Stigma are good reads even if you're not doing research in the area. Also David Matza's Becoming Deviant although I'm not sure how Matza has stood the test of time. They were still using Matza in undergrad courses in the mid-90s, though.
posted by mendel at 10:21 AM on April 9, 2005

Thank you so much everyone! It was Mead, Goffman and Becker that I was thinking about, but you have all given me some great ideas to look into.
posted by bluehermit at 12:12 PM on April 9, 2005

Hate to chime in after the buzzer, but from a political theory perspective, you'd do well to check out William Connolly's Identity\Difference.
posted by jed at 1:58 PM on April 9, 2005

I second Judith Butler.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:49 PM on April 9, 2005

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