Identity

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“The fully unified, completed, secure and coherent identity is a fantasy” (Hall 1992). Discuss

Undeniably, identity is a matter as most of people are willing to sacrifice their life to claim or protect their own identity (Woodward, 2002, p. 7). There have been a number of sociologists and researchers concerned to shed light on the pattern of identity. Many of them put forward the view that identity is a fully developed and stable concept. However, Hall ( 1992, p. 5) totally disagreed with the above statement and insisted that “the fully unified, completed, secure and coherent identity is a fantasy”. This essay aims to demonstrate what is meant by identity and the discussion about Hall’s three ways of conceptualizing identity and how it is relevant to his conclusion of uncompleted and unstable identity. The concept of Social identity was used by Michener (2004, p. 85) as the definition of self in term of social relationships. In more detail, the term identity describes the relationship within one’s self or between one’s self and others (Woodward, 2002, p. 1). Besides, Rummens (1993, p. 21) wrote on his book that identity can be defined as distinctive characteristics of one individual or a particular social group in society. In other words, identity is the way in which we see ourselves and how we belong to our society. In order to support for this opinion, Hall (1957, p. 9) suggested that there are two distinct meanings for the term of self. Firstly, self can be seen as an object which is how we perceive and understand ourselves. Secondly, self can be viewed as a process in which we think and act according to the social environment we are living in. In term of how identity can be studied, Woodward (2002, p. 1) suggested that studying identity is mainly about discovering the key ideas and the relationship between different theories about identity and how this concept changes and develops over time. Baker (1996, p. 210) cited Hall (1992) as saying that the understanding of identity is an already existed fact which is then represented by later sociologists, and, identity should be seen as a production which is never fully completed, changeable and replaceable. Hall charted three ways of conceptualizing identity which are: “enlightenment subject”, “sociological subject” and the “post – modern subject” (Ashe, 1965, p. 89). These three epochal subjects contradict each other and some key ideas are later criticised as Hall‘s view of identity is an never completed (Baker, 1996, p. 210). First of all, according to Hall’s traditional view, enlightenment is a conception of “fully centred and unified identity endowed with individual’s consciousness and reasonable explanation”. This sense of centre and unification is an “inner core” which starts at birth and remains essentially unchanged throughout our lifetime (Barker, 2008, p. 223). In other words, enlightenment provides us a foundation of knowledge and a guide for our action based on rational thought which is built up since we were born (Ashe, 1965, p. 90). On the other hand, Hall (1990, p. 597) later realized that he was wrong about the idea of enlightenment and asserted that “if we feel we have a unified identity from birth to death, it is only because we construct a comforting story or narrative of the self about ourselves”. Moreover, Mead (1934, p. 25) suggested that if we feel we are unique, everyone else feels the same. This means that we may think we have a complete, stable and unique identity but actually it is just the way in which we attempt to convince ourselves, not how we actually see ourselves. For example, from my own experience, when I was in my country, I always thought I am a daughter or student. However, when I live and study in the UK, I am more likely to define myself as Vietnamese or Asian when being asked. In fact, I find it is not reasonable to define myself as a student to my English teacher and my English friend because I have a strong sense of being a...
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