Identity and Social Movements

Reading this week is focused on identity and how that plays into politics and social movements. Even though identity is not something many of us think about routinely, identity is something that shapes almost everything we do and everything we associate with. As the book states, identity “is what makes you you.” It is a very simple concept. It is the way we identify. Whether its the way we act and interact, what we participate in socially, or even on paper through census forms, applications, etc., identity shapes us, and ultimately shapes society.

The book brings up an important question. Is identity an objective phenomenon determined by our position in society or a subjective sense of self that we can only experience from within? I think identity is both. Not only is it how we see ourselves, but it is how society sees us as well, whether its physical traits, or mental traits and choices we make and identify with personally. As a minority, I find it very easy to identify myself in certain aspects. Though I am American, I identify as Korean, and I choose to racially identify as Korean. Though technically I could identify as American, I do take pride in my ancestry, as most minorities (or anyone for that matter) do. While this is a physical trait that is identified by society, I also take pride personally as well. Regardless, it is not an aspect of identity that I can change.

Another important topic is social movements. The book defines social movements as groups of people pursuing shared goals that require social or political change. The book brings up a good point, that social movements sort of fall somewhere between formal and informal, or in other words, a “link” between formal and informal politics. This is the case as they take informal issues and present them in a formal setting. Also as these social movements happen through the involvement of ordinary people, they are taking an active participation in politics. Many social movements are centered on identity. For example, feminism is a movement focused on the equal treatment of women on all levels, and it is something all women can identify with. Movements like these give individuals a strong sense of self and belonging, as they can identify together and work towards a common goal or idea.

It is also important to note that social groups and social identities are dependent of the places they are located. Place determines the development of identity and social groups. Political, economic, and cultural differences influences each and every identity and what society will see as being important to identify and associate with. Because of this, it also determines the impact that social movements will have in a given place. While each of us has our own identity, we identify the way we do because of the setting we are in. If we were somewhere else, how would we identify ourselves? Would we see ourselves as the same, or someone completely different?

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