Foreign policy analysis benefits from careful attention to state identity. After all, identity defines the field itself by making it possible to speak both of policies and of a domain that is foreign. For some scholars, identity has proven useful as a guide to agency and, in particular, to agent preferences. For others, identity has served as a guide to social or institutional structure. Theories of state identity can be divided into three categories: conditions internal to agents, social interactions among agents, and “ecological” encounters with a broader environment. Internal conditions refer to either processes or constraints that operate within the agent under consideration. In the case of the state, these may include domestic politics, the individual characteristics of citizens or other internal actors, and the collective attributes of these citizens or other actors. Although internal causes are not social at the state level, they nevertheless have social implications if they give rise to state identity, and they may themselves be social at a lower level. The social interactions of states themselves constitute a second source of identity, one that treats states as capable of interacting like persons. This approach essentially writes large social and psychological theories, replacing individuals with the state. Finally, the ecological setting or broader environment is a third possible source of identity. The environment may be material, ideational, or discursive, and treated as an objective or a subjective influence.
Paul A. Kowert
Wolfram Dressler and Sally Babidge
The changes in anthropological theory and perspectives on identity and difference can be explored in the context of three major periods of development: the colonial, postcolonial, and postdevelopment periods. In the colonial era, anthropologists drew heavily on the idea of social evolution located in the works of Herbert Spencer, Lewis Henry Morgan, and E.B. Tylor. In their work, lower-order “savages” (i.e., indigenous people) were thought to evolve socioculturally into higher-order, “civilized” Europeans. In the postcolonical period, the wave of independence throughout much of the developing world led social anthropologists to interpret how different groups came to self-identify with people and situations in a relational sense in an emerging postcolonial context. Ethnographers considered how people identified with certain social and cultural characteristics as being contingent upon their shared understanding of these features in relation to group membership and how others perceived such characteristics. Since the 1990s, social anthropologists have considered conceptions of indigeneity and other identity work with greater nuance, focusing on the layered processes that constitute identity. Recent scholarly contributions have considered how and why people have socially constructed their identities through reflections of self, sociopolitical positions, and culture relative to individual and group experiences in society. In particular, three intellectual streams have begun to reconceptualize identity formation: social positioning, articulation, and transnational identity building.