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Diversity is a whirlwind of color through a society. There are no two people in the world that are exactly alike. Individuality distinguishes one person or thing from others (Landau, 364 Ed). A person’s environment as a whole: an interaction with others, experiences, and time, makes a collage of traits that distinguishes someone as an individual. David Sibley’s theory of the “Ecological Self” or Identity is bound by his determents of social, cultural, and spatial context. Sibley believes that class, race, gender, and nation shapes our identity, it is a single concept that is molded by our experiences from the world. I do not agree with this claim because people are individuals, not a development of their surroundings. Identity is not a single concept, there are many factors that shape it, environment cannot just effect identity.
Sibley is a British sociologist that has dedicated his life to the studies behind the “Ecological Self.” Sibley claims that the “Ecological Self” is not internal, it cannot be separated from the physical. “The social positioning of the self means that the boundary between self and other is formed through a series of cultural representations of people and things which frequently elide so that the non-human world also provides a context for selfhood (Sibley, 250).” The “other,” that is being spoken of, is also known as the “Generalized Other.” This is when we cannot separate from the physical and consider it to be the norm.
How do I know who I am? Where do I fit in? Internal and external forces mold our sense of self. Heredity and personal moral are examples of internal forces. Children are often most effected by this. “The forces of physical inheritance takes place mainly in childhood, though even as adults we have the possibility of dealing in our personal development (Grunewald, 2).” Environment also plays an important role in the formation of self-identity. The surroundings, which can include people, places, and experiences, mold an individual into whom they become. The past shapes our identities, and builds from our experiences. “It is our memories which help us make the connections, gives us the insights, and provides us with the sense of continuity, which is so important for our personal identity (http://ozcountry.com/life/tip5.html).” “When we go through times of crisis, massive changes, serious illness, deep conflicts or stress, our sense of self can be seriously challenged, particularly if we have not faced such experiences before. Rather than assuming that personal identity is permanent, static and secure we might see it better as our personalities are dynamic, evolving, fluid and changing. This will enable us to grow with life’s changes as we develop new skills, insight, attitudes, beliefs and values. We are never the
same person (http://ozcountry.com/life/tip5.html).” Identity is a lifelong, continual process of identification with contexts.
The final point made by Sibley was to what extent do individuals alter their identity to conform to social roles. To most, fitting in and being liked is a very important part of life. The way that others look at us is a part of our social standing. Everyone conforms in some way to simply “fit in.” College is an excellent example of the way that people conform. This is at a time that many begin to venture out and make decisions on their own. Many college students face the choice of whether or not they would join a fraternity or sorority. On college campuses being part of the in-crowd means that you are in a social organization. Students alter their identities and conform so that they are able to fit in and affiliate themselves with others.
Individualism and Identity have many factors involved. There can not be just one cause that influences a person so greatly. I would like to see myself as a collection of interactions and experiences. The surroundings that I have encountered have had an impact on my life, but it is not the single determinate that makes the person that I am today. David Sibley’s “Ecological Self” and the other related topics discussed, have some validity of defining the concept of self-identity. Social and Cultural expectations are not the only dominant forces that shape ones personality.
grunewald,peter.genetic engineering and medicine. 1997. 1 jan 2000. www. anth.org
landau, sidney, ed. The doubleday dictionary.
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Identity, Social philosophy, Self, Personal identity, Psychology of self, Philosophy of self, Multi-dimensional model of Maori identity and cultural engagement, Child Identity
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