Volume 16: Identity (Spring 2019)

Spring 2019 THEME: Identity

Identity is a fluid concept that develops as we interact with different people, environments, and ideas. Be it the way we define ourselves or the way other people identify our characters, our physical traits, and our ambitions, how does our identity influence the way we align, limit, or express ourselves? How do other people perceive the identities we attempt to communicate to them, and what happens when identities are miscommunicated among individuals?

 

Is identity the accumulation of individual traits or an overarching concept? For example, if you woke up tomorrow and an arbitrary but nonetheless “identifying” aspect of yourself — such as your name, your hair color, or where you were born — had changed, would you be a different person? How does your identity change as those traits change? Moreover, how can identity exist within both individuals and cultures, and what is the importance of each? Identity is a necessary construct within society and can even be productive. However, we can also be divided by our identities. How can our knowledge and empathy allow us to bridge this gap between individuals?

 

Mind

With the rise of the internet, we’re inundated with new ways to conceive our identities: Buzzfeed quizzes. Astrology memes. Myers-Briggs and other personality tests. Do we rely too strongly on heuristics like categorization when determining our own and other people’s identities? Often, our view of our own identity differs from the way others perceive us. In what ways do we seek external validation for our internal conceptions of self? In other words, how might our hobbies, mannerisms, and relationships exist as proof of our identities? To what extent do neurological differences between people, like genetics or even mental illnesses, affect identity? Finally, contemporary expansions of vocabulary prove that language is a potent tool for understanding cultural and individual identities. How do emerging terms allow us to understand ourselves?

 

Body

How do bodies influence the way we see ourselves, and the limitations we consequently impose onto our identity? How do physical, social, and bodily stereotypes based on appearance affect identity and self-worth? How do disabilities change not only the way we interact with our bodies, but the way we perceive the world — do facilities that are catered toward able-bodied persons affect the way we identify within certain spaces? How do gender and race not only dictate our identities, but the identities people assign to us? Do these assumptions reflect back onto the way we perceive ourselves? Does body modification change this perception and thus our own appraisal of self, or is bodily identity somehow always a part of your history?

 

Death

Our perceptions of death and potential life after death is firmly rooted in personal identity. How do our perceptions of the identities of the deceased change after death? Is death the ultimate end for an identity or can an individual’s identity and our perceptions of that identity still change with the passage of time? How can religion or spirituality factor into our perception of what happens to an individual after they’ve passed on? How can a person’s identity die while the person still lives and can a deceased or discarded identity inform a new one? If our identities are constantly evolving as a result of the ever-changing world around us, can identity ever truly be alive or dead… or is identity caught in a strange limbo somewhere between?

 

Time

Identity is intrinsically linked to time in the way we perceive ourselves, identify with those around us, and process or understand the world around us. How can we see this demonstrated in our own lives? How and why do we become distanced from who or what we identified as in the past? Why do we identify so strongly with the stereotypes and trends associated with our generation, and why do we struggle to identify with other generations because of this? How and why do events change our identities, be it a personal experience that shapes who we are or an event like 9/11 that affects the identity and experience of a population on a national or even global scale? How do identities change and grow across decades, centuries, and eras? How do memories and nostalgia affect our perceptions of others identities, especially once they are no longer present in our lives to assert their current identities? How does our understanding of what constructs identity change across time, as society’s values and definitions change as well?

 

Space

The spaces we occupy act as foundations upon which we are able to build our identity. The places we’re born, the places we live, and the places we travel to create an environment in which our understanding of our conceptions of self can develop and change. Some people feel an extreme sense of loyalty to their hometown, as well as a close comradery with others from that same area; how do our shared spaces impact our ability to identify with others? In contrast, people who have moved constantly may have trouble relating to only one space, how may their identities be shaped by the multiple places they call home?  Across cultures, the acceptable amount of physical space between people varies greatly, how do our customs shape our identities and physical relationships with other people? As nations we distinguish the spaces we occupy by established borders, but why is so much weight placed upon seemingly arbitrary boundaries?

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* denotes Sapere Aude Editor Submission

**denotes Chapman Alumni Submission

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