Lecture 2 : Identity 15/10/2013

by am109145


Lecture aims:

•To introduce historical conceptions of identity
•To introduce Foucault’s ‘discourse’ methodology
•To place and critique contemporary practice within these frameworks, and to consider their validity
•To consider ‘postmodern’ theories of identity as ‘fluid’ and ‘constructed’ (in particular Zygmunt Bauman)
•To consider identity today, especially in the digital domain
The traditional idea and approach that our biological routes makes us who we are, we all have a inner essence which constructs us as human beings and this is how we live our lives. Post modern theorist completely disagree with essentialism and as one would describe are ‘anti-essentialist’.
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Essentialism is ultimately the idea of Phrenology, (Cesare Lombroso 1835- 1909 founder of Positive Criminology) Phrenology explains the idea that criminal tendencies are inherited thus supports this idea of essentialism.
In the 1900’s physiognomy was carried out to differentiate and  grade levels of intelligence. The way that you would be graded is through the positioning of your face, the closer to vertical you were the high grade if intelligence was given. Below is a diagram to depict how intelligence was graded through a set of illustrations that alter in facial constructions:
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The process of physiognomy was then established to legitimating racism. Making an assumption based of facial characteristics penalised people of particular racial/ethnic group, these people who tended not have not so much of a vertical face through genetic inheritance and cultural evolution were being rated as less intelligent thus making those people from a western-european white background seem more intelligent.
In accordance to Douglas Kellner (1992) from the book

Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics between the Modern and the Postmodern (1992), there are three phases of identities which have been established:

1) Pre-modern identity –  personal identity is stable – defined by long standing roles

2) Modern identity – modern societies begin to offer a wider range of social roles, with the possibility to start ‘choosing’ your identity, rather than simply being born into it. People start to ‘worry’ about who they are

3) Post modern identity – accepts a ‘fragmented ‘self’. Identity is constructed


This kind of identity was established through long standing roles, if an individual fulfilled these roles through personal identity then there would be a acceptance of them in society. These long standing roles were established though what one would consider as ‘Secure identities’ of which is was known to be difficult to ‘break free’ from.  Examples of these secure identities are listed below:

– marriage

– The church

– Monarchy

– The state

– Work

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Foucault’s persspective on this was that identities were developed through Discourses, cultural discourses to be specific, the idea that ‘a set of reoccurring statements defined a particular cultural ‘object’.(e.g., madness, criminality, sexuality) and provide concepts and terms through which such an object can be studied and discussed.’ Cavallaro, (2001)
From the postmodernist perspective identity is derived from ones social experience.
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