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Culture and the study of social identity

Wickham, G. (2010) Culture and the study of social identity. In: The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) 2010 Conference, 6 - 9 December, Sydney, Australia



By declaring the social to be universal and timeless the formalised study of social identity – drawn mostly from sociology, social policy, social psychology, and cultural studies – ignores the fact that as a discrete domain the social has a definite a history. This paper argues, first, that modern social identity depends on the existence of the social as a separate domain of relative peace and freedom which emerged in early modern Europe – the civil-peace social. The paper then goes on to its main argument, that culture – as patterns of enculturation, or the formation of particular personae – can, by providing a distinction between culture and the social, help to clarify the way social identity actually works. In this way, the study of social identity needs to put more stress on the fact that for the civil-peace social to have emerged and to continue to flourish, the culture that produced unrestrained individuals and groups had (and still has) to be overcome in favour of the culture that produced (and continues to produce) more restrained persons as new moral personae.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Notes: In S. Velayutham et al. (eds) Social Causes, Private Lives: Proceedings of the 2010 TASA Conference. Sydney: Macquarie University and The Australian Sociological Association
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