MIT21A_218JS10_lec02

MIT21A_218JS10_lec02 - Introduction to Concepts Identity A....

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Introduction to Concepts Identity A. Multiple meanings: here we are interested in individual and social identity 1. Related terms: “self,” “I,” “person,” “personality” B. The French philosopher Derrida maintains that any identity is constructed in relation to difference 1. There is no solid, pre-given center or simple presence; these exist only in relation to something else. a. We will see that some anthropologists hold that this is how ethnic groups are constructed, too C. Westerners tend to think of identity as fixed 1. DISCUSS : evidence supporting this assertion? a. Birth certificates 1) Names changed normally only at marriage 2) Social Security numbers 3) Other societies may assign new names at certain life stages b. All countries fix citizens’ identity to some degree 1) Census-taking and other record-keeping (health, etc.) a) For all kinds of reasons: taxes, conscription to the military b) Civil status (marriage licenses), tribal rolls for Native Americans c. Other institutions as well: 1) Your credit rating 2) “Identity theft” sounds like an oxymoron until you understand what it is 2 Introduction to Concepts 12/14/2010
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2 a) Its possibility demonstrates how bureaucratically constructed this identity is d. The extensive cultural production focusing on themes of imposters and amnesia 1) Reveal an interest, perhaps anxiety, about just how fixed and permanent personal identity is 2. The self, of course, changes, but the West believes that a core identity remains a. This is not universally true 3. The notion that the self should change in proper ways is very widespread a. “Life crisis” rituals transform the self, person 1) Baptism, first communion, commencement, marriage, knighthood 2) Other rituals: ordination, initiations a) “Ye must be born again” D. Notion of a fixed core identity has been a foundational premise of Western social and behavioral science 1. An interest in personality, which is seen as relatively stable a. An “unstable” personality suggests pathology b. Development—childhood seen as leading to a fixed identity 2. Sigmund Freud (and many others) saw important links between how the body developed and how the personality developed a. A biographer of Freud characterized him as a “biologist of the mind” b. He saw the mind and emotions as developing the way the body develops c. Necessary stages that all individuals have to go through 1) In the proper manner, otherwise, pathology results
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3 Cross-cultural variation in notions about identity A. Assumptions about the nature of the self, its relation to the body, the “identity” of,
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MIT21A_218JS10_lec02 - Introduction to Concepts Identity A....

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