Identity and Perspective

This chapter in the book brought up some interesting ideas on identity and social movements as they relate to geography. It would seem, as the book points out, that many researchers fail to connect the relationship between many social movements and the geographic characteristics that influence them, despite the two being seemingly inseparable.

To begin, the book talks about identity, mostly discussing shared identities. Shared identity is often the major force when it comes to the development of social movements. The social movements that book discusses are labor movements and the women’s movement. The book highlights how shared identity is shaped by the place in which it occurs. This means that groups with the same shared identity, might develop very different social movements with very different levels of success. This is because their geography influences many different facets of how a social movement will work, such as the degree of dedication and access to resources.

One interesting idea the book talked about is the difference between conventional approaches to social movements and unconventional ones. Many groups with shared identities have recognized organizations that represent their interests (labor unions for example). However, some movements are not formally organized and are geographically dispersed. An example of this informal movement might be the “occupy” movement. Both types of movements seek to change the norms of current society but go about it in different ways.

The additional article concerning “unhyphenated” Americans and their voting habits was also a very interesting read. What I found most interesting was the idea that over time, Americans will associate with their European roots less and less until they simply say that they have “American ancestry”. I also find it interesting that “white” Americans are the first to forego their older heritage. It would be interesting to look at the reasons why that ethnicity and geographic area is quickest to do this. I also wonder if in time other ethnicities (like African-American or Asian-American) will also simply refer to their heritage as “American”, considering how much pride many people take in these shared identities. While the article mainly focused on the perspective of these “unhyphenated” Americans on Barack Obama, I found the identity transition evidence to be much more interesting. I would be curious to see if this trend continues to grow over future generations.

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