Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson was the first professional to describe and use the concept of ego identity in his writings on what constitutes healthy personality development for every individual over the course of the life span. Basic to Erikson’s view, as well as those of many later identity writers, is the understanding that identity enables one to move with purpose and direction in life, and with a sense of inner sameness and continuity over time and place. Erikson considered identity to be psychosocial in nature, formed by the intersection of individual biological and psychological capacities in combination with the opportunities and supports offered by one’s social context. Identity normally becomes a central issue of concern during adolescence, when decisions about future vocational, ideological, and relational issues need to be addressed; however, these key identity concerns often demand further reflection and revision during different phases of adult life as well. Identity, thus, is not something that one resolves once and for all at the end of adolescence, but rather identity may continue to evolve and change over the course of adult life too. Following Erikson’s initial writings, subsequent theorists have laid different emphases on the role of the individual and the role of society in the identity formation process. One very popular elaboration of Erikson’s own writings on identity that retains a psychosocial focus is the identity status model of James Marcia. While Erikson had described one’s identity resolution as lying somewhere on a continuum between identity achievement and role confusion (and optimally located nearer the achievement end of the spectrum), Marcia defined four very different means by which one may approach identity-defining decisions: identity achievement (commitment following exploration), moratorium (exploration in process), foreclosure (commitment without exploration), and diffusion (no commitment with little or no exploration). These four approaches (or identity statuses) have, over many decades, been the focus of over 1,000 theoretical and research studies that have examined identity status antecedents, behavioral consequences, associated personality characteristics, patterns of interpersonal relations, and developmental forms of movement over time. A further field of study has focused on the implications for intervention that each identity status holds. Current research seeks both to refine the identity statuses and explore their dimensions further through narrative analysis.
Paul A. Kowert
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.
Sexting has recently attracted both media and academic attention. Mostly associated with adolescents, sexting, broadly speaking, refers to the production of and sharing of a naked or semi-naked image or a sexualized message via digital technology. Understanding sexting behaviors, however, is rather more complex and current commonly used definitions do not adequately address the different types of sexting and the different motivations and consequences that sexting behaviors have. Both media and public discourse have centered on the risks of sexting in relation to children and young people, as have policy responses to sexting activity. Concerns over a child being groomed online and being coerced or threatened into sending a naked or semi-naked picture by someone seeking sexual gratification has been the focus of policy debate and many public educational campaigns across the globe. Similarly, other campaigns have depicted the child or young person as a victim who sends a sexualized image to a peer that is then posted on a social media site or shared widely among a peer group causing the sender humiliation and distress. While these are both clear examples of digital abuse that have been the center of public awareness campaigns, it is often argued that current legal frameworks are insufficient to provide an adequate and appropriate response in many sexting cases, as there is considerable diversity in the circumstances and the contexts of sexting behaviors. As such it is argued that the (il)legality of sexting is such that it fails to recognize young people’s agency and that they may be choosing to produce and share images of themselves by choice. While it is legal to have sex with consent in many countries at age 16, it is still illegal to take a photo of either one’s own body or that of another if they are under 18 (even if over 16 and, thus, over the age of consent to have sex in many countries). As a consequence, some young people are being criminalized by the very laws designed to protect them. In reality many young people view sexting (although they do not use such terminology) as a mundane, fairly everyday thing to do, especially when they are in a romantic, intimate relationship and they are sharing the images with each other within the context of a trusting relationship. However, it is usually when that relationship breaks down that the image is more likely to be shared with others or published online with often harmful psychological and emotional consequences for the person depicted in the image. Sadly, some young people have committed suicide as a result of an image being publically shared. While the media, public, and, indeed, academic attention has focused on sexting in relation to children and young people, such behaviors are also experienced by adults who are similarly victims of digital abuse; yet many adult victims fail to receive protection from the criminal justice system when an image or video is published online without their consent. This is more commonly known as revenge pornography.
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.
Bert Klandermans and J. Van Stekelenburg
Social identity processes play a crucial role in the dynamics of protest, whether as antecedents, mediators, moderators, or consequences. Yet, identity did not always feature prominently in the social or political psychology of protest. This has changed—a growing contingent of social and political psychologists is involved now in studies of protest behavior, and in their models the concept of identity occupies a central place. Decades earlier students of social movements had incorporated the concept of collective identity into their theoretical frameworks. The weakness of the social movement literature on identity and contention, though, was that the discussion remained predominantly theoretical. Few seemed to bother about evidence. Basic questions such as how collective identity is formed and becomes salient or politicized were neither phrased nor answered. Perhaps social movement scholars did not bother too much because they tend to study contention when it takes place and when collective identities are already formed and politicized. Collective identity in the social movement literature is a group characteristic in the Durkheimian sense. Someone who sets out to study that type of collective identity may look for such phenomena as the group’s symbols, its rituals, and the beliefs and values its members share. Groups differ in terms of their collective identity. The difference may be qualitative, for example, being an ethnic group rather than a gender group; or quantitative, that is, a difference in the strength of collective identity. Social identity in the social psychological literature is a characteristic of a person. It is that part of a person’s self-image that is derived from the groups he or she is a member of. Social identity supposedly has cognitive, evaluative, and affective components that are measured at the individual level. Individuals differ in terms of social identity, again both qualitatively (the kind of groups they identify with) and quantitatively (the strength of their identification with those groups). The term “collective identity” is used to refer to an identity shared by members of a group or category. Collective identity politicizes when people who share a specific identity take part in political action on behalf of that collective. The politicization of collective identity can take place top-down (organizations mobilize their constituencies) or bottom-up (participants in collective action come to share an identity). In that context causality is an issue. What comes first? Does identification follow participation, or does participation follow identification?
Peter V. N. Henderson
While Europeans basked in the glory of their so-called century of peace between the end of the Napoleonic wars (1815) and the onset of World War I (1914), Latin Americans knew no such luxury. Conflict became a way of life for Latin Americans attempting to construct nation-states. Liberals and Conservatives dueled with one another for political power, while caudillos (military strongmen) added their unique twisted logic to the political process. Historians have spilled considerable ink detailing these internal conflicts that complicated Latin America’s struggle for effective state formation in the early national period but have paid much less attention to the external wars over disputed boundaries that involved every South American nation during the 19th century. As historian Robert Burr described it: boundary conflicts were the “congenital international disease of Spain’s former colonies.”