Are Identities Changeable?

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  • Created by: Rachel LH
  • Created on: 06-09-15 15:04

George Herbert Mead (1934)

  • Identity = the fact of ebing who or what a person/ thing is.
  • GHM: People's perceptions and behaviours are influenced by social groups, which shape socialisation and self of others/ individuals, thus creating identity. 
  • The 'self' (individuals capacity to be reflexive and assume the role of others) - 'me' (how the individual is seen by others) components.
  • Self develops through increasing social experience.
  • 'I' reacts to 'me': individual understands. - Takes the attitudes of others in relation to different symbols of social life.
  • Symbols: smile, wave, word etc. = sharing of meanings.
  • Symbols associated with a persons identity change with location or social experience.
  • Change occurs through 'self' acting on new experiences, and then by others noticing the change. Thus a change in identity.
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  • Symbols mark how we share identities/ distinguish ourselves from others: langauge/dress.
  • Symbols translated differently depending on what they mean to certain individuals.
  • Male, white footballers: look threatening. - Themselves see them as fun loving. - In an emergency one reveales themselves as a doctor.
  • Change in identity from first to later impressions.
  • Stereotypical first impression identity. 
  • Establish new identity later due to circumstance.
  • Identity = how we see ourselves; how other people see us based on our social statuses; which communities we feel attachment and loyalty. 
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Primary Socialisation

  • Choosing our identity is not always a choice.
  • Individual may aspire to be something else.
  • Social group individual is surrounded by is due to primary socialisation.
  • Social group identifies with often the one in which the individual was raised in.
  • Characteristics inherited from group - same symbols used. 
  • Reflect on the self - becomes the individual's identity.
  • Extra cautious parents in strict households - means children will only be alowed to socialise with certain people.
  • Prohibits outisde influence to prevent a 'negative' change in identity.
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Castells (2004)

  • Nothing natural about identites: may choose some, others imposed upon the individual.
  • 3 Examples of choice or imposed change (identites).
  • Legitimising - introduced/ promoted by dominant institutions. - reproduces society's power relations - prohibits change of order - confers recognition of national citizenship to immigrants - negative change in identity. 
  • Resistance - promoted by marginalised groups - devalued by current social conditions - had uncontested power - now losing gound - increase in agnostics and atheists - resists social change - religious fundamentalist groups. 
  • Project - promoted by groups building new identities - trying to transform social structure - environmenalist and feminist movements - promote change in identity - better choices and equality. 
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Giddens (1991)

  • Self is 'made' rather than inherited.
  • Giddens - post traditional order, self identity becomes a reflexive project: an endeavour we continuously work/ reflect on - create/ maintain/ revise our biological narratives.
  • Self identity = not a set of traits/ observable characteristics.
  • Individuals own understanding of their biography.
  • Has continuity, cannot be changed at will and is a product of the individuals personal beliefs about their biography
  • Stable self identity = account of individuals life/ actions/ influences which can make sense to themselves.
  • Can be explained to others.
  • Reflect on identity - more information & reflexivity - more choice and change.
  • "A persons identity is not to be found in behaviour, nor (important though this is) in the reaction of others, but in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going.
  • The individuals biography, if she is to maintain regular interaction with others in the day to day world cannot be wholly fictive.
  • It must continually intergrate events which occur in the external world, and sort them into the ongoing story about the self."
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Goffman (1969)

  • Identity = dramatic effect - the way we present ourselves.
  • Dramaturgical model = Life becomes a performance.
  • Identity projected at target audience = convery self to others. 
  • Identity seen by others can change through 'performing' different roles (using different symbols) the individual can adopt/ adapt (change).
  • Control what is 'given' to make a good impression.
  • Can be given away by what is 'given off' inadvertently.
  • " When an individual plays a part he implicitly requests his observers to take seriously the impression that is fostered before them.
  • They are asked to believe that the character they see actually possesses the attributes he appears to posses,
  • that the tasks that he performs will have the consequences that are implicitly claimed for it, and that, in general, matters are what they appear to be."
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Late/ Postmodern Changes

  • Identity changed: Traditional to Postmodern.
  • Traditional: given identities
  • Postmodern: chosen
  • Postmodern identity includes ability to change symbols more freely.
  • Choice in religious and sexual identity.
  • Change to what identity suits the person best.
  • Globalised world - more possibilities but also risks.
  • Diversity - opportunity and also pressure to change identity to keep up with trends. 
  • Those left behind may experience a crisis in identity.
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Bauman (2000)

  • Liquid modernity - condition of constant mobility and change in contemporary society. 
  • Transition from social modernity to liquid form of social life.
  • Liquid modernity = constructing a durable identity that coheres over time and space becomes increasingly impossible. 
  • Moved from being 'pilgrims' (search for deeper meaning) to 'tourists' (search of multiple but fleeting social experiences).
  • Identites (postmodern) - susceptible to change.
  • Change driven by consumerism.
  • Identity defined by what we buy.
  • Change is constant.
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Cyber Identity & Sherry Turkle (2011)

  • Contemporary societies allow new identites for individuals online: established by the self, believed by others.
  • Protrayal online is actually who the individual claims to be.
  • Change of identity = escape from reality.
  • Online games = new virtual/ second life, allows more flexibility in identity, allows fluidity. 
  • 'Cyber sex' = fluidity in gender and sexuality.
  • ST (2011) - Blurred distinction between humans and computors.
  • Expect technology to simplify relationships.
  • People become disconnected due to overuse.
  • Seclusion viewed as pathological. 
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  • Intertwined with people's backgrounds.
  • Religious identity as given/ ascribed.
  • Can be chosen.
  • Modernity associated with secularisation.
  • Identites become individualised and privatised.
  • Functionalists - religion as a social institution. 
  • Fulfils specific functions for society. 
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Durkheim (1915)

  • Defines religion as: "unified system of beliefs and practices related to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart, and forbidden beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community."
  • Social identity anchored in system of guiding beliefs/ symbols - serves unique/ powerful function in shaping psychological and social processes. 
  • Religion offers distinctive 'sacred' worldview and 'eternal' group membership - more meaning in religious identity than other identities. 
  • Positive social group (makes this identity unique) - grounded into the belief system. 
  • Offers epistemological and ontological certainty - religious identity promotes well being.
  • Can have negative impacts when threatened through intergroup conflict. 
  • Religious Fundamentalist groups encourge atheists/ agnostics to change identity.
  • As can non - believers encourage a change in religious identity. 
  • Religion as a dual function 
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Religious Identity

  • Religous identity refers to religious self identification (Smith 1998).
  • Exists as a set of diverse yet commonly held belief systems - individuals can gain benefits (e.g. health/ well being; Haslam et al 2009).
  • Those highly identified with religion share common beliefs - percieve group membership central to their self concept (gains a sense of personal/ collective self esteem from membership; Luhtanen and Crocker 1992 + strong bond with group members; Cameron 2004)
  • Unique characteristics (compelling affective experience/ moral authority) cannot be empirically disputed (Wellman and Tokuno 2004) - religious identity has personal significance exceeding that of membership in other identities. 
  • Because of these reasons people may not want to change identity. 
  • Belief system inherent in any religion may be central to explaining why many strongly associate themselves with their religious identity. 
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Religious Adherence

  • Some identity traits fixed at birth.
  • Others aquired/ modified later (changed)
  • Many identities not based on ascribed traits - based on shared values/ beliefs and concerns.
  • These are open to aquisition by choice and change.
  • Includes shared religious adherence.
  • Members of religions proselytise to win converts to their faith.
  • Also true for political ideologies.
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No Change In Religious Identity

  • Identities vary - self designations/ attributes made about other persons.
  • Identites endure and can change. - they can exclude or include. 
  • People have multiple identites - each one's relative importance/ compatibiliy differs in various time/ circumstances.
  • Zuckerman (2010) - most of us stay in the religion in which we were raised. 
  • In the U.S - 80% of catholics stay catholic - 90% Protestant and Judaism (Greenay 1991)
  • If people do change religion they can only change it to a religion that exists where and when they do. 
  • Introduced to them by someone or something that intersects with their limited existence.
  • Cannot be escaped: time and place are the most unavoidable/ salient determinants of religious identity.
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Iannacone (1992)

  • Rational choice theorist ^ declares people "approach religion in the same way that they approach other objects of choice. They evaluate its costs and benefits and act so as to maximise their net benefits. Hence they choose what religion (if any) they will accept and how extensively they will participate in it."
  • Compares choosing/changing religious identity to buying everyday objects - buy the cheapest most efficient things.
  • Flaw of RCT - terms it bases itself on (rational,cost,benefit) are highly subjective/ socially constructed/ culturally contested. - rational means different things to different people (Zuckerman 2010) 
  • Change in religious identity not always a choice. 
  • African people - forcibly changed to christianity as slaves - loss of origin religion/ culture. 
  • Whites - King Olav 1000 C.E. 'convert to christianity or die' (Palm and Trost 2000)
  • "People learn and aquire their religion from other people" (Finney 1978; Chalfont and LeBeff 1991). 
  • True with religious identity - changing a persons religious identity slower process.
  • Cannot simply pick a religion and identify as a member. 
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Bruce (2002)

  • Religion in modern society - become more rationalised - organising faith around reason.
  • Secularisation occuring more frequently.
  • Bruce: "a social condition manifested in (a) the decline of importance of religion for the operation of non - religious roles and institutions such as those of the state and the economy; (b) a decline in the social standing of extent to which people engage in religious practices, display beliefs of a religious kind, and conduct other aspects of their lives in a manner informed by such beliefs."
  • Due to secularisation, people are beginning to change their religious identity. ( Agnostic/ atheist ) 
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Casanova (1994)

  • Criticises secularisation due to privatisation from 1980's.
  • "religious traditions throughout the world are refusing to accept the marginal and privatised role which theories of modernity and theories of secularisation had reserved to them."
  • Religious movements challenging secular spheres of state and market.
  • Religious fundamentalist groups trying to prohibit change in religious identity.
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Ammerman (2005)

  • Religious identity is found in the everyday.
  • There are strong religious communities being focused on congregations (Ammerman 2005).
  • The everyday life of religion is the carving out of a space in which people:
  • "gather to worship, learn, and serve in their own particular ways."
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Sexual Diversity

  • Sexuality/ gender closely intertwined.
  • Gender brings expectations about sexual desire (often hetero).
  • Family diversity - families being more acceptable/ tolerant of sexual diversity.
  • Mix of sex, gender, and sexuality created an increasing variety of identites.
  • Gays and lesbians often grouped together. 
  • LGBTQI+ pulling together of diverse sexual identities and gender identities.
  • Biological theory - individuals born with specific sexual orientations. 
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Foucault (1978)

  • "For a long time, the story goes, we supported a Victorian regime, and we continue to be dominated by it even today. 
  • Thus the image of the imperial prude is emblazoned on our retained mute, and hypocritical sexuality".
  • Found that sexuality is constructed through discourses.
  • Is labelled through language.
  • Boundaried though social norms. 
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  • Sexuality due to own personal experimentation in early life.
  • Establishment of preferences.
  • Criticism that homosexuality is genetically determined - homosexual men less likely to procreate. 
  • Any genes that contribute to sexual identity not passed on to off spring.
  • Genes that contribute to homosexuality will die with them.
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Sexuality Stereotypes

  • Understood as part of social life of humans.
  • Governed by implied rules of behaviour and status quo.
  • Claimed sexuality influence social norms.
  • Society in turn influences the manner of expression.
  • Invention of mass media - sexuality further moulded environment in which we live.
  • Sexuality distilled - often in sterotypical form.
  • Repeatedly expressed in commercialised forms - prints, audio, film. 
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Gender Identity

  • Distinguished from gender identity (sexual identity).
  • GI - more expansive set of roles.
  • Usually moulded by social environment exposed to as a child.
  • Authority figure giving a boy a truck - a girl a doll.
  • Human physiology/ gender moulding.
  • Makes certain forms of sexual expression more than likely (hetero).
  • Does not predict future sexual behaviour - gender appropriate. 
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Sexuality and Norms

  • Sexual choices made using current cultural norms.
  • Chose to abstain from sex before marriage - religion forbids such actions.
  • Some cultures acceptable to have many wives.
  • Bigamy/ polygamy frowned upon in others.
  • Dissident sexuality - form subculture within the main culture. 
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American Psychological Association

  • Sexual orientation - pattern of emotional, romantic, sexual attractions. 
  • Applies to men, women, both genders, neither gender, another gender. 
  • APA: sexual orientation refers to persons sense of "personal and social idenitity based on those attractions, behaviours expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them."
  • Usually classified according to gender of those who are found to be sexually attractive.
  • People may use labels, or none at all.
  • Sexual orientation in three categories: Hetero/Homo/Bi
  • Exist along a heterosexual - homosexual continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexul to exclusive homosexual.
  • Various forms of bisexuality inbetween.
  • Continuum does not suit everyone. 
  • Some identify as asexual.
  • Sociologists view linear scale as oversimplification of a more advanced notion of sexual identity. 
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Whitehead (1999)

  • One of the strongest arguements against homosexuality as inborn unalterable condition.
  • Change in sexual orientation. 
  • People move around on the continuum - in both directions.
  • Greater proportion of homosexual change to heterosexual.
  • Change may be therapeutically assisted - some cases circumstantial.
  • Life itself can bring along the factor that can make the difference. 
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West (1977) Nichols (1988)

  • Sexology literature - huge number examples of change in sexual identity.
  • West - "Homosexuality Re-examined" - "Although some militant homosexuals find such claims improbable and unpalatable, authenticated accounts have been publicised of apparently exclusive and long standing homosexuals unexpectantly changing their orientation."
  • Mentions one man who was homosexual for 8 years then became hetero. 
  • Hetero women in midlife develop lesbian feelings and behaviour. - Well known clinical feature of lesbianism. - Occurs during marriage or after marriage break up - no clinically observable hint of prior existance. - (Nichols 1988).
  • Found among married bisexual women they dramatically change sexuality that casts doubt on the inflexibility of sexual orientation and attraction over a lifetime. 
  • Sexuality - seen as a fluctuating variable. 
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Giddens (1992)

  • Over recent decade - family/ marriage transformed by greater choice/ equality between men and women.
  • Relationships and sexual identity - free to exist based on sex and intimacy - rather than procreation - contraception.
  • Marriage no longer defined by law or tradition. - leaves two parties to define/ change their relationship/ sexual identity according to personal beliefs about how to make the relationship positive and functional.
  • He describes this as a 'pure relationship' - relationship exists solely to meet each partners needs - will continue to do so as long as it suceeds.
  • Greater option of choice and change - personal relationships inheritable - become less stable - can be ended by either party at anytime. 
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Sexuality Late/ Modern Society

  • Sexual identity - slowly changing - increasingly becoming a part of how we see ourselves/ connect with others.
  • Late/ modern relationships - increasingly individualised/ privatised. 
  • Societal developments hugely influential on individual experience. 
  • Acceptance of sexual identity diversity not universal.
  • Sexuality - term for experiences of feelings/ actions - viewed differently by theorists.
  • Heterosexuality - still dominant.
  • Increasing acceptance of difference - assimilation - 'homosexualisation' of society.
  • Sex becoming the fore in discussions of personal life/ identity in recent years.
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