Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Identity, a figment of the Dominant Hegemonies Imagination that Society Made Real

September 14, 2009 · 2 Comments

When you think about identity the person you are, the person you wish to become you never truly recognize that ultimately you have no control on your identity. What makes up one’s identity; Race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, job, degree? The list can go on forever, and the major commonality among all of these aspects of one’s identity is that they are all socially constructed. You never get to decide what you wish to be, and it is unique. Of course not anyone person in the world is the same, but an individual is never able to define themselves without conforming to society in one way or another.

In the novel Second Class citizen Adah is trying to escape her confined gender role as a woman in Nigeria. In order to do so, she flees to Europe in search for a better life. She discovers that her societal role in Europe is far worse than it was in Nigeria and she is further oppressed because of what her identity. If we examine the oppression that Adah faces in both Nigeria and Europe we can get a better understanding of identity. In Nigeria the only obstacle that Adah faced was the fact that she was a woman. Adah was a much respected woman in her society, but because of her gender she faced oppression that affected her subjectivity in society. It is this reason that led her to flee to Europe. However when she arrived in Europe other parts of her identity was realized. In Nigeria Adah was just a rich woman, but in Europe Adah was a middle class black woman. This realization of her racial identity is something she never had to acknowledge because in Nigeria she wasn’t a minority, but when entering Europe her identity becomes altered. In essence she has not control of her identity because identity is not self defined. Identity is defined by society.

Everyone in this world from birth is given their name, gender, and sex. As they grow they are allotted a certain number of social constructions to add to “their identity.” No one born in today’s world can exist without being defined by society, and even choosing to remain as an “other “or remained undefined you are still conforming to a societal role. The human race has become so compliant on social construction, that they have become our norm. And what makes matters worse is that so many people are unable to realize that by simply existing they are being forced to conform to society.  To answer Jeyla’s question, Identity is always societal defined.

Categories: Anthony
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2 responses so far ↓

  •   becca136 // Sep 14th 2009 at 18:17

    I feel that one’s personal identity is different from the things other people use to identify them (race, gender, etc.). Maybe that is why once you get to know someone very well your vision of them changes and you start to see them for who they are not what they are.
    By the way I love the quote in the beginning of the post!!

  •   Karl // Sep 15th 2009 at 03:55

    The issues raised here is precisely why I prefer the term “identification” rather than “identity.” Identification allows for agency. To say that everything is socially constructed gives us no choice in who we think we are. This just doesn’t make sense to me. Identity also insists on a static definition. As someone who has changed class, religion, politics, and more in my short life, the static nature of “identity” simply seems false to me.

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