Purpose of research
What is identity? Do we know who we are? Identity is a complex and nuclear concept that has an essential role in most subfields and discussion in political science in the current society. Identity has been a key point in the discussion about gender, nationality, ethnicity and even state identities. Talking about identity is one step close to discovering who we are as individuals. What defines us as people; as individuals rather? Is it our appearance? Is it our bodies, our shape or our flesh? Is it what we wear? Is it how we behave? Is that really who we are? Each and every one of us struggles with one or more of these questions on a daily basis. There is, therefore, a lack of understanding of what defines us; our identity is unknown to most of us. The purpose of this research was to find out what is identity. To do that I had to look at the different interpretation people have about identity and compare it with the definition that different scholars have put across over the years. Further I had to dig deeper into what makes us who we are. This was only achievable by looking at what makes up our identity and the different types of identity we individuals possess. The end game of all this was to enable individuals to get a clear picture of how to define themselves; to know what makes them who they are and not let other non-factors other than the ones found in the research define them.
My opinion about my identity surely differs from that of another person about their identity. Moreover, how I define myself will differ from how someone else defines me. At the scholarly level, different scholars have different definitions for the term identity. Hogg and Abrahams (1998) give the simplest definition of identity; people view of who they are, of what sort of people they are and how they relate to others. Another scholar known as Deng (1995) described identity as the way individuals and groups define themselves and are defined by others by race, ethnicity, religion, ethnicity, and language. According to Jenkins (1996), identity is the way in which people and groups are defined in their social relations with other persons and groups. We can see that identity is as a way of differentiating people or groups of people from each other. It is, therefore, point to a double sense point, that is; it refers to social categories while at the same time addressing the issue of an individuals dignity and self-respect. Therefore, identity can be conclusively be defined as either a social group defined by rules, characteristics and expected behavior, or socially distinguishing attributes that an individual is proud of and views them unchangeable but socially consequential (Fearon, 1999)
Constituents of our identity; what makes up our identity? From Dengs (1999) definition we get to see that they are different aspects that contribute to an individuals identity. Over the years a persons identity has been constructed by race, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexuality according to Deng (1999). However, currently other factors have also been discovered to contribute to an individuals identity. Two of these factors that constitute identity are nationality and ideas. According to the dictionary, race refers to a group of people sharing a common cultural origin, history and language. Races are simply divisions of mankind. But do races really define us. Scientists tend to disagree with the fact that races are very crucial in constructing our identity. They tend to disagree with three principles of races that people tend to believe in; the archaic subspecies concept, the divisibility of contemporary humans into biologically valid groupings and the relationship between racial traits and cultural, social and political status. In the archaic subspecies concept, it is believed that human beings were originally grouped into different biologically distinct species and subspecies either by God or evolution. However, studies made by anthropologists on human fossil remains show that humans have a common origin; that is Africa. From Africa, humans moved out and spread all over the world and due to environmental factors people that were phenotypically and genetically different were born over time. So it will be rather imprudent to conclude that races are what define us as they are a result of adaptation and were not fixed upon us at the origin of mankind.
Other constituents of a persons identity are rather contradictory on whether they real form part of a persons identity or not. Gender and sexuality really form a minute part of an individuals identity according to some people, however some people take pride in the fact that they are male or female. For others, factors such as nationality and ideas form a big part of their identity because they believe in the ideals of their nation. Ideas form a big part of us since what man conceptualizes is what man ends up doing in most case scenarios. So in actual sense, the above make up the identity of a person, but it is up to a person to decide which of these really define him or her, and, therefore, which take a sense of pride in. Moreover, language is another essential constituent of a persons identity. Over the years, people have tried to differentiate language saying that one language is better than the other, but in real sense there is no better language. Languages are different and thus they define much about our identity. They form part of individuals cultures which is also a fundamental aspect of peoples identity.
Identity can be classified into different categories. First of all identity can be viewed as personal identity and social identity According to Taylor in his book Sources of the Self: the Making of the Modern Identity, he defines self- identity as the commitments and identifications which provide the frame within which an individual tries to determine what is good, valuable or is supposed to be done, or what to support or oppose. Taylors definition looks at self-identity as moral constriction or guidelines that a person follows in their daily activities. However, philosophers argue that self-identity is any aspect of person that when changed cause a change in the attribute of the person. Social identity refers to defining ourselves in terms to the affiliations or membership we have in certain group (Utwente.nl, 2015). Individuals have a tendency of developing a sense of pride by of the social classes, families or even sports teams that they belong to (Tajfel, 1979). For example individuals belong to certain sport, for instance tennis, tend to have a sense of pride in tennis and looks down on other sports.
Identity can also be classified as role identity or type identity. Role identity refers to labels that are put on people that are expected to act in a certain way or routine or function in a particular situation (Andriot & Owens, 2012). Examples of labels used in role identity are words such as mother, father, student, lawyer, tycoon and so forth. Type of identity refers to labels used to identify persons who have or are thought to have the same characteristics whether it is behavioral or appearance.
Hypotheses and research questions
During the research, some of the hypothesis I had was that most people define themselves by personal style. Therefore when asking questions I had to find out whether the respondent though of personal style as a contributor to their personal style. Another question was what do people think constitutes their personal identity. To get a clear picture of social identity, I needed to find out what groups- clubs, teams, work groups- people prefer ad why they do so
Methodology and data analysis
I carried my research using the internet mainly to get a better understanding of identity before beginning seeking information from first-hand sources. The information from the interview was essential when it came to the preparation of the questionnaires and interview questions. Information acquired form internet research mainly pointed out on what to ask in the interview in order to get a better understanding of what the research topic.
When the research was done, it was essential to summarize data obtained from the interview so as to reach a conclusion on questions that were previously ambiguous in the internet research. There was a need to analyze the information from the questionnaires and interviews. For example tallying will be done for data involving numbers and the information. The information was presented through tabulation and graphical methods, especially data that was statistical in nature
Implications of the research
Human beings are social beings. Understanding themselves creates an opportunity for them to better themselves and also better others. One of the key implications of this research was impacting knowledge on what we should let define ourselves. From the data in the research I found out that most people based their identity on non-essential factors such as dressing patterns. Yes dressing patterns may be a major part of our day to day life but if John changes his dressing code from official suits to casual jeans and denims, does that change any characteristic of John? Is he not the same John we know? Therefore as philosophers argued, self-identity is based on things that when changes would alter the character of the individual. Furthermore, I got to understand that affiliations to certain groups (social identity) truly do lead to prejudices for the group that one belongs and against other social category. This affiliation to certain social categories makes a big part of our lives and who we are. Most of us even derive our personal identity by the social categories we associate ourselves with. Therefore this research is likely to impact individuals in knowing who they are by enabling them to know what defines them and what does not. Moreover, through defining ourselves, we can found out what role does our identity have in our lives; how it influences our behavior, decision making and interaction with others.
It is evident that identity plays a crucial role in our day to day life. It restricts us to certain ways of think, choosing, interacting and even the people we let into our lives. Knowing ones identity is a process of self-discovery. Eventually, one gets to know what aspects of his or her life he or she is contented with and what he or she can do to better their lives. Hopefully, this research will give people a picture of getting to know who they are.
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