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Identities are answers to the questions:. “ Who are you?” and “Who are they?”. Identities are answers to the questions “Who are you?” and “Who are they?”. Identities are relational, contextual Identities form through social interaction

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identities are answers to the questions who are you and who are they
Identities are answers to the questions “Who are you?” and “Who are they?”
  • Identities are relational, contextual
  • Identities form through social interaction
  • Their content and meaning – the boundaries of identities – change over time
identities consist of
Identities consist of:
  • a boundary separating me from you or us from them
  • a set of relations within the boundary
  • a set of relations across the boundary
  • a set of stories about the boundary and relations

Tilly, 1999

identities form through pairing comparing contrasting relating social categories
Identities form through pairing - comparing, contrasting, & relating - social categories
  • a social category consists of a set of sites that share a boundary distinguishing all of them and relating all of them to at least one set of sites visibly excluded by the boundary
  • identities separate us from them, imply distinct relations among us, among them, and between us and them

Tilly, 1999

ch 42 being middle eastern american identity negotiation in the context of the war on terror

Ch. 42: Being Middle-Eastern American: Identity Negotiation in the Context of the War on Terror

Amir Marvasti

stigma management of spoiled identity
Stigma & management of spoiled identity
  • objective: to show how Middle Eastern Americans manage the stigma of their “spoiled identities,” especially in the aftermath of September 11th
  • analytical method: combines symbolic interactionism (SI) and structuralism
    • SI attends to how meanings and identities are constructed through everyday social interaction
    • Structuralism focuses on how micro-level interactions are conditioned by social structure - social context and history
goffman on stigma
Goffman on stigma
  • “When a stranger is present before us, evidence can arise of his possessing an attribute that makes him different from others…He is thus reduced in our minds from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one. Such an attribute is stigma.”
    • Stigma is variable social construct and not a fixed characteristic of a person
identity disputes are occasions for eliciting and producing accounts
Identity disputes are occasions for eliciting and producing “accounts”
  • accounts: encounters in which a person is called to explain unanticipated or untoward behavior—whether his/her own or that of others, and whether the cause of the statement arises from the actor himself or someone else
    • accounts are conditioned by structural factors, social-historical context, e.g.,
      • political turmoil
      • war
media images shape social context
Media images shape social context
  • Middle Eastern Americans are suffering “ill-fame” (Goffman, 1963) perpetuated by the mass media
    • their “public image . . . seems to be constituted from a small selection of facts which . . . are inflated into dramatic news-worthy appearance, and then used as a full picture [of their identity],” e.g.,
      • racist stereotypes and fear of terrorism perpetuated by the media
  • the stigma of being Middle Eastern American is not external to interactions but is constructed or rejected via interaction, accounts, & self-presentational strategies
five forms of accounting strategies
Five forms of accounting strategies
  • humorous accounting
  • educational accounting
  • defiant accounting
  • cowering
  • passing
humorous accounting
Humorous Accounting
  • uses humor as a diversion technique
  • substance of account is incidental and is deliberately trivialized
  • account-giver acknowledges demands of encounter while undermining legitimacy and urgency of request for an account
educational accounting
Educational Accounting
  • takes deliberate pedagogical form where account-giver assumes role of educator, informing & instructing account-taker
  • combats stigma by correcting stereotypes
  • unlike humorous accounting, educational accounting centers on the informational substance of the account
de ant accounting
Defiant Accounting
  • like humorous accounting, account-giver exerts agency by challenging other’s right to the request
  • unlike humorous accounting, stigmatized make explicit demands for counter-explanations
  • interaction explicitly focused on the fairness of the exchange
  • in “defensive cowering” the stigmatized go along with stereotypical demands of setting in order to avoid greater harm
  • artful practice and agency take backseat to external conditions
  • stigmatized is virtually powerless in the face of rigid demands of the setting
  • more about “saving body,” or one’s physical safety, than “saving face”
  • goal is information control and concealment of stigmatizing attributes
  • accomplished by manipulating one’s appearance, e.g., using disindentifiers

As described by A. Marvasti, in post-9/11 NYC, US flags were deployed as disidentifiers among people suspected of disloyalty, to passas loyal Americans

(“Being Middle Eastern American: Identity Negotiation in the Context of the War on Terror,” 2005)