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Identity Theorists


Michel Maffesoli • “The time of tribes” • Mass culture has disintegrated • Today, social existence is conducted through fragmented tribal groupings, organized around the catchwords, brand-names and sound-bites of consumer culture • The rise of ‘identity politics’ • The ‘proliferation of lifestyle cultures’

My finger is glued to my chin


Dick Hebdige 1. 2.

3. 4. 5.

Young people construct their identity through fashion and musical influence Subcultures use bricolage, taking elements of past culture and putting them together in a way that changes their meanings Style has a meaning for every youth (sub)culture Style can be read. It is a language (a form of expression/ communication) Style is a way of defining who you are and who you are not


The Meaning of Style • Young people construct their identity through fashion and musical influence • Style has a meaning for every youth (sub)culture • Style is a way of defining who you are and who you are not Subculture is resistance • Youth subcultural styles are often seen as a threat; a threat to the norm. • Youth subcultures often celebrate deviance • Youth cultural styles resist the expectations of adult culture. As such, youth subcultural style is an expression of symbolic resistance (resistance through symbols) • Youth cultures create their own elusive meanings, creating a language of youth and for youth • Youth subcultures are a form of collective selfdefence • Youth subcultures are attempts at counterhegemony and resistance to the social injustices of the working class world In youth culture, the body is a site of resistance • Clothing, accessories, hair, make up, jewellery become a space of meaning-making • Appearance is a language and a way of expressing/ defining/ identifying yourself

Bricolage • Subcultures identify themselves and define themselves through symbols (clothing; accessories etc) • Subcultures subvert usual symbolic meanings –

• • •

the symbolic value of scooters, conventional smart clothes, medical drugs and even metal combs were hijacked by mods, who turned such everyday objects into symbols of subcultural hedonism and intimidation – subversive parodies of all that was conventional

In subverting meanings, subcultures redefine culture. They rebel. Subcultures borrow from previous styles/ subcultures, but they change the meanings of these styles. Punk was a subculture that borrowed from all previous subcultures and its only binding collectivity was chaos

The commercialisation of a subculture • Subcultures begin as rebellious, but eventually become tamed/ ‘norm’-alised by becoming part of the mainstream • Subcultures become commercialised and commodified by the establishment, being assimilated into mainstream culture • This is accomplished through “the conversion of subcultural signs (dress, music, etc.) into massproduced objects (i.e. the commodity form)”, • “Youth cultural styles may begin by issuing symbolic challenges, but they must inevitably end by establishing new sets of conventions, by creating new commodities…”


“the unfinalised self” or “the unfinalisable self”

Mikhail Bakhtin


Paul Ricoeur • French Philosopher • Narratives of the self • "On Selfhood: The Question of Personal Identity." • “The self is essentially a fiction through which we understand our lives as coherent stories (“narrative identity”). We are the stories we inhabit and tell about ourselves”.

Je suis un excentrique


Anthony Giddens “The narrative of the self”

• Identity = narrative of the self • We create, maintain and revise a set of biographical narratives - the story of who we are, and how we came to be where we are now. • self-identity is a reflexive project we continuously work and reflect on • “What to do? How to act? Who to be? These are focal questions for everyone living in the posttraditional age”


Henry Jenkins • American • Professor of Communication • Fans are ‘textual poachers’ • Take meanings that are useful to them and leave the rest • @HenryJenkins


Jean-François Lyotard Grand Narratives have collapsed – Class, Religion, Nationality… – These narratives, that used to give us our identity and sense of being, no longer have meaning for us.


“By creating the categories which are used to identify individuals, they have also in a sense created those individuals.”

Michel Foucault • French • 1960s-80s • Defies categorisation (studied “Histories of systems of thought”) • Writes about power and categorisation – Plus history of sexuality/ history of disciple and punishment/ architecture


Jean Baudrillard • French theorist • Postmodernism • Sociologist/ cultural theorist/ philosopher • ‘the generation of models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.'

– there is no such thing as first-hand reality – Instead all we have are copies of copies of copies, mediated experiences, perfect replicas without an original. – Nothing has an innate essence anymore; everything is surface.


Jean Baudrillard • ‘the generation of models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.' – there is no such thing as firsthand reality – Instead all we have are copies of copies of copies, mediated experiences, perfect replicas without an original. – Nothing has an innate essence anymore; everything is surface.


Danah Boyd – the Future of Identity •

“Online access provides a whole new social realm for youth”

“MySpace should be recognized as my space, a space for teenagers to be teenagers”

“In everyday interactions, the • body serves as a critical site of identity performance. In conveying who we are to other people, we use our bodies to project information about ourselves. This is done through movement, clothes, speech, and facial expressions. What we put forward is our best effort at what we want to say about who we are.”

“Teens often fabricate key identifying information like name, age and location to protect themselves. While parents’ groups often encourage this deception to protect teens from strangers, any teens actually engage in this practice to protect themselves from the watchful eye of parents.”

• •

“teens are modeling identity through social network profiles so that they can write themselves into being.”

“Identity can be seen as a social process that is fluid and contingent on the situation.”

“In choosing Friends, teens write their community into being, which is precisely why this feature is so loved and despised.” “Because Friends are displayed on the individual’s profile, they provide meaningful information about that person; in other words, “You are who you know.” For better or worse, people judge others based on their associations: group identities form around and are reinforced by the collective tastes and attitudes of those who identify with the group.”

“by allowing youths to hang out amongst their friends and classmates, social network sites are providing teens with a space to work out identity and status.”

“Many [young people] began participating in social networks because of the available social voyeurism and the opportunity to craft a personal representation in an increasingly popular online community.”

“A MySpace profile can be • seen as a form of digital body where individuals must write themselves into being. “

“‘If you’re not on MySpace, you don’t exist.’ – Skyler, 18, to her mother.”

Identitytheorists  
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