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“Without social identity, there is, in fact, no society.” -- Richard Jenkins
The idea that beliefs about “who we are” are created in a social context reflects the basic sociological theory that human beings are socially created, not prisoners of instinct. Sociologists see identity as related to the society in which people exist. People, are, in part, socialized into their identities. There are assorted ways that conceptions about individual and group identities are socially constructed. An identity is created against a social background that tries to make social interaction meaningful, understandable and well-organized by categorizing people in various ways. The nature of identity is expressed as a social phenomenon and a dynamic feature of social life. The understanding that “who we are” is socially constructed permits us to account for the fact that how we view ourselves and how others see us is not socially static.
The concept of identity narrates an understanding of who and what we are; and what we and other people believe us to be. An identity involves a set of characteristics that define us as individuals, groups, societies and so forth. In order to develop a sense of identity, it is essential to have a sense of self-awareness. Individuals develop this sense of self through the socialization process when they learn the manner of social interaction on the basis of various cultural identities. The one, in short, is dependent on the other. Identity is a social construct, in the way that once an individual assumes a particular identity – they acquire and exhibit specific social characteristics. Cooley’s “looking-glass self” offers an insight into the development of an identity. His theory was that we use behaviour of others towards us as a kind of mirror in which is reflected an image of the person we are. Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical approach uses a theatrical metaphor to represent the social world. It illustrates how an individual develops a sense of self and personality through adopting a role, assuming a status and learning a set of flexible behavioural principles during social encounters.
Social categories, or sources of identity, can be and are used for the purpose of generating and maintaining individual and group identities. To clearly explore the ways identity is termed a social construct, this essay will outline several examples that are significant sources of identity; namely: gender, age, and ethnicity. However, before illustrating the various examples, a few sociological perspectives on the social construction of identity will be briefly discussed in order to establish a clear framework.
Sociological perspectives all agree that identity is a social construct, and reject any notion that identity is innate. Social circumstances and expectations create who we are and cast the identity. These perspectives are rooted in the basic concept, and provide opinions on the manifestation of social identity. The Structuralist perspective places great emphasis on socialization as a means of social identity being a social construct. Socialization is viewed as an infl
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Richard Jenkins, Erving Goffman, Stoller, Cooley, Shaun Hides, Yinger,
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