Chapter 5: TheCultural Construction of Identity
Question 5.1: How Is Identity, And One’s Sense Of Self, Learned?
Hugh Brody – describes a baby Inuit girl as a reincarnation of her grandmother, and how adored
she is because of that.
Identity – learned personal and social types of affiliation, including gender, sexuality, race, class,
nationalism, and ethnicity, for example.
Learning to Belong
Hugh Brody – the baby knows she is important from her birth, and this knowledge increases as she
learned about her land, its creation, and her place in the world.
Stories provide knowledge about life that is passed on to each generation hear the same stories
but not everything is understood in the stories sense of wonderment
We are not born knowing who we are or our place is the social landscape; we learn consciously
and unconsciously to be a version of ourselves. Our identities are political and collective, formed
around struggles. When we form our identity, we know how we stand in relation to others.
Identities like gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, national identity are NOT naturalor biological.
Enculturation – the process through which individuals learn an identity. This can encompass
parental socialization, the influence of peers, the mass media, government, or other forces.
o Sociocultural forces and institutions – mass media, parents, peers, schools, government
Eg. Canadian –anthem, government-sanctioned history, hockey media, ideal
Canadian (white, middle-class, male) PROBLEM, Canada is diverse
Imagined community – a term coined by Benedict Anderson in 1983. It refers to the fact that even
in the absence of face-to-face interactions, a sense of community (Eg. nationalism) is culturally
constructed by forces such as the mass media.
o Eg. Not in Toronto, but in Saskatchewan and watching 2010 Vancouver Olympics makes
it feel biological sense of Canadianess makes them willing to die for their country
“Nature vs. nurture” – phrase coined by Francis Galton in 1874, references a longstanding
scholarly debate concerning whether or not human behaviors and identities are the result of
nature (biological and genetic factors) or nurture (learned and cultural factors)
o Many human differences (Eg. intelligence) is biological many believed this at this time
Margaret Mead – 1926 studied the behavior of Ta’u teenage girls; their experiences of adolescence
was completely different from American girls. In Samoa, the girls have sexual freedom and didn’t
go through torment with parents role of culture or nurture in human behavior
Biology = behavior justification for social inequalities in society Washburn and Lancaster
1968 argued women are better nurturers which could lead to argue that women are better staying
at home. Human Genome Project - link behaviors to specific genes Eg. gay gene, selfish gene.
Question 5.2: How does theconcept of personhood vary fromsociety to society?
The ImportanceOf Self
Names differentiate individuals from others most lasting aspect of ourselves
Names vary depending on culture andsituation. First names = casual, Last name = formal.
Jorge Chimbinda – Umbundu people in Angola have 2 ways of naming their child: after a relative or
give a new name that refers to some unusual circumstance that was present during the child’s
birth OWN last name result of cultural values relate to a proverb & story o Names are rewards and serve to stress the concept of extended family
o Each child represents a living relative or ancestor
o Mother’s & father’s side are equal because both parents contributed to child’s existence
o Experiences of parents into child’s name
o Portuguese colonizers couldn’t keep track, so made them adopt Portuguese names &
Individualistic – a view of the self in which the individual is primarily responsible for his or her
o North Americans are highly individualistic same person even as our identities change
Holistic – when an individual’s sense of self cannot be conceived as existing separately from
society or apart from his or her status or role
o Umbundu believe society needed for one’s identity
The Egocentric and Sociocentric Self
A. Shweder and Edmund J. Bourne – 2 distinct ways in which the person is conceived in different
o Egocentric – a view of the self that defines each person as a replica of all humanity, as the
location of motivations and drives, and as capable of acting independently from others.
Western view of individualism, free-acting being interaction, intrinsic qualities
Individualism is difficult because of factors like poverty and ethnicity
The self lives it’s life by pursuing happiness and satisfying its wants.
Americans cut themselves off from the past (parents) and seek to become their own
person, self-supporting derives from belief that success is the outcome of free
and fair competition among individuals in an open market, SO we don’t pay
attention to pre-disposed factors
Hellen Greymillion – study of eating disorder clinic in US. Cultural forces that cause
this is ignored, and the individual is to blame WRONG!
o Sociocentric – a context-dependent view of the self. The self exists as an entity only within
the concrete situations or roles occupied by the person
o Exceptions because of globalization
Personhood in Japan and North America
Christie Kiefer – Japanese are more likely to include within the boundaries of the self the social
groups of which the person is a member family more important than individual
Robert Smith – Japanese view of the self expressed in language no personal vocabulary
Japanese vocabulary is conscious of status keigo “polite speech” establish social standing and
degree of intimacy of speaker and listener must be careful while speaking
Japanese people don't feel the need to assert themselves in conversation reserve traits “enryo”.
Japanese do consider themselves as separate entities attached to personal names belief in
self-development established not in social interactions but away from society self-reflection
and introspection they find kokoro “true heart”, hara “belly” (true nature), and jibub “self”.
Question 5.3: How Do Societies Distinguish Individuals FromOne Another?
Different social codes in each society varying significant difference
o Eg. family membership, gender and age are categories within most social codes
o Family is themost important!
Language is also important tied to national identity conflict between groups
o Movement for independence of the French fromthe English part of Canada
o Quebecois argue that their identity is more than language, it’s a culture. o Conflict since the beginning. 1759 English drove French out of eastern Canada Battle
of the Plains of Abraham the Treaty of Paris gave Canada to English 1791 Lower and
Upper Canada 1841 Act of Union 1867 the British North American Act created 2
provinces 1960s Quiet Revolution Quebec was the heart of Canada rules by English
Question 5.4: How Do Societies Mark Changes In Identities?
The Transition to Adulthood
Rites of passage – the term coined in 1908 by Arnold van Gennep, refers to rituals that accompany
changes in status, such as the transition from boyhood to manhood, living to dead, or student to
o Three phases in ritesof passage:
Separation – separating the person from an existing identity
Emphasized in funerals
Liminality – transition phase
Emphasized in transition from childhood to adulthood
Reincorporation – changes are incorporated into a new identity
Emphasized in marriage
Rites of passages evident in Canadian society boot camp for the army
o Separation – undergoing physical changes of hair and uniform
o Transition – perform physically and emotionally draining tasks.
o Integration – can endure all stresses, gets a new uniform and a ceremony
Boyhood to manhood rites of passages involve a test of courage
o David Gilmore – societies incorporate tests of masculinity and tortuous initiation rituals for
males is that male identity is more problematical than the female identity men must take
great effort to differentiate themselves from their mothers
o VictorTurner – Ndembu of Zambia boyhood to manhood
Separation – taken away from thei