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Anthropology 1025F/G
Sarah Shulist

identity 10/29/2013 Lecture 8 – Identity – Oct 29, 2013 By the end of this lecture, you should be able to explain how anthropologists approach ‘identity’as a social construct. You should have a basic understanding of some of the most important types of identity that are talked about in anthropology (gender, race, ethnicity, religion, family membership, age, etc). You should also be able to explain how certain behaviours, beliefs, or symbols are associated with identities in different societies, while others are not, and some of the implications of social inequality for how people experience their identities. Key terms and concepts identity toolbox self socialization gender, sex, sexuality stigma race and ethnicity Key names Erving Goffman Michel Foucault who are you? - I am smart, a friend, a sister, a girlfriend and a daughter. I am a mix of different heritages but mainly dutch. Understanding identity – Identity is a complex concept that brings in a number of important aspects of anthropological study. Aperson’s understanding of his or her identity incorporates a number of different elements or categories that can be described as an “identity toolbox”. The components of the “identity toolbox” may differ in different societies, and different societies may also think some are more important than others. The toolbox includes: • family membership • gender • age • ethnic group membership • race • wealth • ethnicity • rank/role Identity as a social construct – In any society, people are raised to understand what it means to be who they are. They are taught to interact in certain ways based on certain features. Which features are important and what it means to have those features are both determined by the society that a person lives in. Identity is something that is experienced as an individual – a person comes to develop a sense of self, and their relationship to the rest of the world, as a result of their view of their identity. It is also something that involves creating relationships among groups (connecting different individuals to each other as members of the same group, or dividing between different groups). Self: The idea of a concrete, independent self with a stable identity is often assumed in Western society to be a part of being a mature individual. This is not the case in all cultures – some incorporate a great deal of fluidity in identity, while others downplay the idea of individual ‘independence’. This is based on different understandings of personhood, or what it means to be an individual in a given context. Socialization: The processes by which people in a given society learn how they should behave and interact with others, and how they should understand themselves are called ‘socialization’. Socialization practices produce different kinds of identity and inform how people in different categories are taught to behave. Some examples of identity categories that are very important in our own society are gender, ethnicity, race, and religion. Sex and gender: Gender is often assumed to be a biological reality, but in fact a great many
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