Diversity and difference in communication
Diversity and difference in communication

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Diversity and difference in communication

2.7.5 Identities are negotiated

In constructing their identities, people can only draw on terms that are available in society at that time, which have meanings and associations attached. However, people may attribute different meanings and importance to those labels. This means people always negotiate their identities, in the context of the different meanings attached to them.

Taking this view of identity, as a social process that people engage in, rather than as a fixed essence inside them, is not to deny that particular identities are extremely important for certain groups and individuals. Being a Sikh, or a woman, or gay, may feel like the most important and ‘deepest’ part of you. However, a more dynamic and social model of identity is useful because it makes it difficult to reduce people to any one aspect of their identity, or to use social identity as a way of explaining every aspect of their behaviour and needs, including their communication needs and behaviour.

Key points

Social identities, whether based on ethnicity, gender, disability or other factors, should be seen as:

  • plural

  • dynamic

  • contextual

  • negotiated

  • produced in social and interactional contexts.

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