Introduction to Context: Identity and Belonging
NOTE: This handout is to be glued into your context journal.
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Who am I? Where do I belong? What things have shaped me into the person that I am today? How have they done so?
In the context Exploring Issues of Identity and Belonging, you will consider many issues related to questions of a sense of self and how we gain the feeling of belonging to a family, group, place or community. What makes a sense of self? Each of us is an individual with our own talents and tastes and a unique outlook on the world. Some of the factors that define use are outside our control, such as our race and culture and the family we are born into. These factors also determine a secondary level of circumstances, for example the religion, the school and the socioeconomic conditions we experience in our early years. However, identity is not just a simple matter of external circumstances, or of genetics: even identical twins, born and raised in the same environment, will differ from each other in their response to the world and the personalities they develop. One human quality that we all share, despite our individual identities, is the need to belong. It is a paradox that we long to be free to be who we truly are and yet we yearn to belong to come kind of community. The warmth of a loving family, supportive friends or a group of people with a common cause sustains us and helps us to develop our own sense of self. However, the cost of belonging can be substantial. Families, for example, may have expectations of us that conflict with our own ambitions. Groups may demand unquestioning obedience and conformity. It is painful to be an outsider but there is often a price to pay for belonging. It can be difficult to balance these conflicting impulses, to be both independently ourselves and to belong to a wider community. The title of this context gives equal emphasis to identity and belonging, suggesting that each is related to the...
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