What is Identity?
Identity as an abstracted and immaterial term or construct has been taken on by different academics. The philosophy, for instance delves into identity on a personal level and asked for “Who am I?”, “Where do we come from?” and “How do we think?” (Hoffmann:2010:70). The psychobiology assumes that some parts of our identity are pre-determent by our RNA, a part of our identity would therefore be a mixture of our parent’s ones (Barkhaus:1996:31-38). Academics of pedagogic and education are interested in the process of selfdiscovery within the puberty (Osterloh:2010: 31-36). There are many more schools which are dealing with identity, all of them intersect and influence each other. The perspective of the Culture Studies offers in matters of identity multiple approaches as it is an interdisciplinary field in which perspectives from different disciplines can be selectively chosen to observe the relation of culture and identity (Baker:2005:7). The term identity emerged during the 90s as the central theme into the cultural studies and raised the question “What is identity?” (Backer:2005:219), in order to explain the “...consciousness of self found in the western world ...” (Longhurst/Smith/Bagnall/Crawnford/ Ogborn: 2008:142).
Purpose of this paper is to use the approach of the culture studies to find out how we, as human, constructed identity. Therefore it is imported to include and analyse elements which make up identity and to embrace how we exhibit one’s own identity.
In the view of the Cultural Studies identity is a social construction and cannot exist outside of cultural representation. Theories in this field assume that every culture would use the pronoun T and has a conception of self and personhood (Backer:2005:220). However, the context in which the term T is used, what T means differs from culture to culture. Elias pointed out that the concept of T as a self-aware object is a modern western conception and people in other cultures do not necessarily share the individual, unique and self-consciousness idea of the term T (Elias 1982:73pp)
Anthony Giddens assumes that self-identity is constituted by the ability to sustain a ‘narrative about the self ’.This would include the capacity to build up a strong feeling of biographical continuity. He sees identities as stories which effort to answer questions as “What to do”, ”How to act” and “Who to be”(Gid- dens 1991:53 pp.). He argues further that identity would not be a collection of qualities that human acquire, rather identity would be what one’s thinks about one’s self. Giddens uses the term ‘project’ to comprehend his idea of identity, as it is one’s creation in an ongoing process of development (Giddens 1991:73).
Bradford J. Hall on the other side assumes that human use the distinction of different identities and the expectation toward these to make their world meaningful. According to him “Identities are sets of social expectations related to ourselves and others that (a) are grounded in the interplay between similarities and difference and (b) pertain to the persona, relational and communal aspects of lives.”(Hall:2005:102). Hall illustrated the term ‘expectation’ on different roles we play, as an actor plays different roles in different movies. Caused by the way humankind structure their world, people have different roles to play. Roles are determent for instance by the profession, sex, peer group or age (Hall:2005:102pp). Another term for roles might be mask, as something that can be put on, changed or taken off. The mask a person is wearing determines expectations from other people towards that one’s behaviour, as well as that person has expectations about its own way to interact while wearing that mask.
In view of the globalisation, immigration and intercultural marriage, changing a role can imply for people with multi-cultural backgrounds to change in between nationalities (Samovar/Porter/McDaniel 2004:124). An in a western country living Indian might adopt the lifestyle of the country he immigrated to, he plays certain roles within this culture. Assuming his parents still live in India, he might change back into the set of roles associated with his originally culture background, when he is visiting his homeland. Onwumechili named people who changing their identities on the ways between homeland and the county they live in “intercultural transits” (Samovar/Porter/McDaniel 2004:125). The number of these “intercultural transits” is predicted to rise within the new definition of distance through airplanes and the new possibilities a dual citizenship offer, through which new concepts of identity evolve(Samovar/Porter/McDaniel 2004:125).
Wearing a particular mask or playing a particular role implies also the use of different communication patterns, use of language, dialect and jargon. Hall calls these “Language expectations” (Hall:2005: 105). He refers using this term to the jargon or dialect people use as a member of a certain group. For instance an academic might be expected to express himself in a different way as a professional skateboarder. Hall sees within the language a very powerful expectation that makes up our identity, forasmuch that language can be used to draw the outline of a group identity and people who not using the same distinguish language might be excluded of the group.
Jeffrey Weeks assumes that identity “...is about sameness and difference, about the personal and the social, about what you have in common with some people and what differentiates you from others”(Week:1990:89). Sharing the same idea Hall sees the heart of all identities in the “Interplay of similarity and difference” (Hall:2005:106). Similarity inasmuch as an adopted identity comprised something we share with others, for instance a nationality, profession or religion. On the other hand can a similarity abnegate another identity, a female cannot be a man as well. People are different from people who do not share the same identities, but both oppositions are needed to understand one in the greater concept.
 Culture Studies is not a synonym for the study of culture which has taken place in a variety of academic disciplines (Barker:2005:5).
 The term group refers in this content to any assemblage of individuals who can be separated from others by at least one attributes.
 3. Every interaction is based on verbal or non-verbal communication; Identity is therefore an important fact of communications(Hall:2005:102).
- Quote paper
- Rosa Grieser (Author), 2012, How do we construct identity?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/212410