1 What is your identity?
The distinction between the approaches from psychology and sociology stems from a difference in the interpretation of how social reality is constituted: is identity fixed and exists independently of human consciousness (‘objectivism’)? Or is identity a public phenomenon, a performance and practice that is observed and made sense of by others and ourselves (‘subjectivism’)?
The materials forming this course contain studies and insights from both subjectivist and objectivist perspectives. We aim to demonstrate what the different implications of each perspective are for intercultural encounters, and how these two schools of thought can prepare and enlighten you.
Make a list of five to seven factors that you feel define your identity (e.g. age, nationality). Then, try to rank them according to how important a role you think they play in making you who you are. Briefly explain why you think the higher-ranking factors play a more important role in forming your identity than others. This list will be used again later on in this week.
This list is probably unique, as all of us have our own, individual identity which is shaped by different factors. Some of us might find our ethnicity highly defining, while others may not see their ethnicity as a big part of their identity. The significance of single factors in forming our identities can change over time – our idea of who we are is not fixed. A typical example is the traditional progression from being young and single with the identity of an independent bachelor or bachelorette, to becoming part of a partnership or marriage. Expectations around what the role of a husband or wife entails are not universal either, with clear differences across religions, generations and cultures, and they also change overtime, for instance, when the role of being a parent is added. Our professional identities, as another example, only start to develop once we start our job and are shaped by our impressions of others who share our profession.