Questioning Identity: Gender, Class, Nation.

Kath Woodward, (ed.) (2000) Questioning Identity: Gender, Class, Nation, London: Routledge. ISBN: 0-415-22288-5.

This publication is part a series of books for the study of social science through the Open University, published in 2000 it is probably a little dated now as it pulls from examples no later than the 1990s. however, as a book for a broader and better understanding of what identity is and how it is formed, used, seen and understood by others is useful to a photographer.

The book consists of four chapters, 1 – Question of Identity, 2 – Identity and Gender, 3 – Identity, inequality and social class, 3 – Identity and nation. Then each chapter is sub-divided into sections that address different aspects that are part of that chapter’s topic with further sub-sections that look at these topics in further detail. The book also includes activities for the student to participate in to help learn and understand.

Notes and Quotes

Identity involves:

  • a link between the personal and the social;
  • some active engagement by those who take up identities;
  • being the same as some people/groups and different from others as indicated by symbols and representations;
  • a tension between how much control I have in constructing my identities and how much control or constraint is exercised over me.
  • A passport example illustrates the tension between how I see myself and how I am seen by others, between personal and social.
  • Institutions play an important role in constructing identities.
  • Official categories contain omissions fully accommodate the personal investment we have in our identities nor the multiple identities that we have.
  • Our own constructed identities is based on how we imagine ourselves.
  • We achieve this by visualizing ourselves, thinking in symbols.
  • the identity position which we take may be the result of unconscious feelings which we may try to rationalise but which we may not know for sure.
  • Many aspects of identity derive from childhood experience so that identity is constructed by the past as well as the present.
  • Identity is not fixed and unchanging, but the result of a series on conflicts and of different identification.
  • Both gender and sexuality are important to our understanding of identity. Our sense of who we are is most significantly linked to our awareness of identities as either men or women.
  • Interpellation – a process whereby people recognise themselves in a particular identity and think, ‘that’s me’.
  • Interpellation links the individual to the social.
  • It may work consciously or unconsciously.
  • Organization of society is important in shaping our identities.
  • Class, gender, ethnicity and place are important factors to identity.
  • These factors illustrate the tensions between the individual and the social and between individual’s control or agency and that of the social structures.
  • Difference in unequally weighted and can create some people as outsiders.
  • Well over half the UK population live below average income.
  • The numbers on poverty rose sharply in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Important determinants of where you are in the household income distribution are occupation and household structure, including the number of children within the household.
  • Management of financial wealth as capital confers power.
  • Marx and class – for Marxists, class is rooted in the economic organization of production.
  • Weber and class – Weberians see class as being rooted in market position.
  • Identity and collective action in the Weberian tradition focus more on status group than on class.
  • Class as a source of collective identity may be being eroded by a more individualistic and consumerist culture.
  • Some sociologists argue that consumption has replaced class as the key factor structuring social division and identity.
  • There is good evidence for increasing social polarisation in the contemporary UK in terms on income and employment experience.
  • Research suggests that income related and work related identities do not greatly differ between poor and better off people.

Published by shauncn512659

Hi, I am an OCA student studying for an Art degree in Photography , my student number is 512659. My e-mail is:

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