2.1.1 Plurality of Identity

Every person has multiple dimensions of identities. In communication and daily interactions we define who we are. According to Fong, we negotiate our identities with people who are similar to us and different from us. Our identities are developed in social interactions.

Castells points out that identity must be distinguished from what, traditionally, has been called roles and role-sets. Roles - for example to be a worker, a father, a neighbour, a basketball player and a smoker at the same time - are defined by norms defined by the institutions and organizations of society. Their influence on people depends on negotiations and arrangements between individuals and these institutions and organizations.

Identities organize the meaning while roles organize the function. The essential question is how, from what, by whom, and for what identities are constructed. Building materials are to be found in history, biology, institutions, collective memory, personal fantasies and power apparatus. Individuals, social groups and societies process these materials. The social construction of identity always takes place in a particular context where power relationships rule.

Sometimes identities may start as resistance and they gradually become dominant in the process. The building of identity may lead to a different life, from an oppressed identity to the transformation of society. An example of this is a post-patriarchal society, which liberates women, men and children through the realization of women's identity.

© Irmeli Luoma, 2005


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