Taylor, Stephanie (2014). Identity. In: Teo, Thomas ed. Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology. New York: Springer, pp. 933–936.



Discussions of identity are complicated by the many uses of the term (see Jenkins, 1996). It is cited politically, in contests around recognition, rights and inclusion, as in the claims of a minority group against the state and larger society. It is also used personally as a reference which approximates to the self, for example, in the notion of an ‘identity crisis’. Academically, identity generally implies a sameness and felt connection between the individual person and some wider collective or group, and in both lay and academic uses, references to identity often serve an explanatory purpose: a person’s behaviour or feelings or a likely life course may be attributed to their belonging to a particular identity category.

The problematization of recognised identity categories is central to research on gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, among many other examples. Academics are interested in the definitions of specific identities, their origins and their situated and contemporary nature. They investigate the lived and felt, or affective, nature of identity and hence the nature of the person, and the extent to which ‘who I am’ is chosen or given. Investigations of the connection, or disconnection, between self-descriptions and the identities attributed by others therefore link to classic social and philosophical debates, around voluntarism and determinism, structure and agency.

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