Identity Studies

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I haven't coined this term and I feel a bit arrogant in staking out a definition for it, but it names a new enough field that I think my presumption may be forgiven.

The study of identity is nothing new; research on identity has been conducted through the lenses of psychology, post-modern literary theories, feminism, cultural studies, or corporate communication, to name just a few. The growth of online activity, especially the appearance of online communities has precipitated the particular approach with which I began my own research on identity. The Internet allows creation of imagined communities that differ markedly from those we have known in television and print journalism. Most importantly, "netizens" can exert far more control over self and community representation. Sherry Turkle was one of the earliest to explore this in her book, Life on the Screen. I grew interested in the creation of identity online through my participation in Sequential Tart, an online magazine that offers a venue for women's opinions on comic books, a traditionally male-dominated genre. Tart is one of the first online communities I joined; since then I've also been involved with others that serve fan groups and Asian diasporic communities. My experience with these communities suggested many avenues of research on identity, some of which have been explored into existence as conference papers or publications.

I've also been expanding my exploration beyond online communities to look at how identity and authenticity become sites of contention in discussion of many cultural products, so much so that we may say that identitiy and authenticity, and perhaps authority to speak are the real subjects of debate. For example, the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Ang Lee spawned a heated debate over whether it was a "real" Chinese film or represented "real" Chinese values, aesthetic or moral. In this debate, the opinions of Mainland Chinese were often presented as more authoritative, and the aesthetic values of Chinese film were presented as a simplistic set of criteria which CTHD did or didn't match. I am not so interested in which side is right, but rather in the way different groups argue for who has more authority to speak on the issue, and whether the same debate which arises over Ang Lee, who has been labeled on various occasions as a Chinese film-maker, a Taiwanese film-maker, and a Chinese American film-maker, as to white American film-makers. --Quentin Tarantino poaches Asian cinematic techniques all the time, but no one ever argues that his films aren't authentically American!

A conference on Rhetorics of Identity: Place, Race, Sex and the Person had this to say about their theme:

Explorations can include: biblical constructs of sacred identity and persona, issues of race and ethnic constructions, religious reconstitutions of the subject, sexed identities and desire, political and legal definitions of the subject and their implications, philosophies of individualism, honor-shame cultures and dyadic personalities, the conflict of allegiances, the role of the person in rhetoric and ad hominem argumentation, medical discourse and research and their impact upon ideas of the self, among other subjects.

Participants from the fields of anthropology, philosophy, literature, rhetoric, religion, social and political sciences, medicine and ethics, to name a few areas of possible interest, are welcome.

So you can see that it's all rather interdisciplinary and messy! But I've always found the messy borders between disciplines the most interesting and fruitful area to explore.