How do You Define Your “Identity”?

Which definition of identity is best?

Pick one:

  • It can’t be defined.
  • Identity is: The sameness of a person or group at all times or in all circumstances; the condition or fact that a person or group is itself and not something else.
  • Identity … is a processual phenomenon (with both interactive and reflective moments) involving a highlighting and prioritising of a subset of dispositions, values and characteristics from the wide range of given elements (objective attributes, cultural repertoires, individual dispositions, values and virtues) embodied and embedded in the situated (relational) self. Additional notes are provided for clarification: This definition grasps many of the features that have been emphasised in recent writings: the processual and project oriented character of identity … its givenness and chosenness … and its relational and negotiated quality … the role at once of social ascription … and concepts of self-worth … It allows at once for reflective choice and negotiation in identity-making. It is consistent with the full range of identities from the fluctuating, fragmented and other-directed to those with value and historical-depth, persistence and coherence.


  1. Today, most social scientists adhere to the first view. According to James D. Fearon, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, academics rely on the supposition that … everyone knows how to use the word properly in everyday discourse here
  2. The second definition is derived by the new paradigm of identity. It adheres closely to the original 16th century meaning of the word which emerged from Medieval Latin identitas or idem meaning “sameness” or “same” here
  3. The third definition appeared in 2009 in IBIS Discussion Paper: Politics and Identity Series; 5, under the title Trajectories of identity change: explaining the persistence of collective opposition. It was written by Jennifer Todd Director of IBIS, School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin and published by the Institute for British-Irish Studies, University College Dublin here

Image R. M. Keogh

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