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Multiple Identity

The Critique Of The Subject, The Linguistic Turn And The Social Construction Of The Subject, New Philosophical Challenges

Within Western thought the subject—that is, the self as a thinking, feeling, psycho-physiological entity—has been traditionally defined as a centered consciousness, characterized and unified by one self-defining identity. Within this tradition, a centered subjectivity was long thought to exist and function independently of the social contexts surrounding it, without significant influence from those contexts. Later, the centered subject came to be regarded as socially constructed in and through social contexts, yet still rendered whole by a single self-defining identity or identity-grounding element that would center the subject in any and all circumstances.

Multiple identity, on the other hand, is one specific conceptualization of the more general idea that the subject is not centered, but instead decentered and multiple. Such a decentered subjectivity can encompass many different, perhaps even contradictory, identities, and is not necessarily centered by one self-defining or "true" identity. Rather, since identities are socially constructed and constructing, their specific number and character are a function of the various forms of socialization that forge the subject over time, as well as of the lifeworlds in which he or she participates. Consequently, the multiple identities of a subject (both social and personal) are relevant to and engaged in specific social milieux and are manifest in a context-dependent manner. Since subjects engage different and multiple identities in response to the social contexts in which they find themselves at a given moment, no one identity is a priori or necessarily more central, self-defining, or true than any other.

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