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date: 26 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Across the social sciences and humanities, identity is a conceptual tool to think about sameness and difference, both in terms of individual continuity and change over time and social categorization or group affiliation. This chapter traces the theoretical lineage of the identity concept, focusing on the foundational theories of William James and George Herbert Mead. In contrast to the relative emphasis on the exterior world of social meaning found in Mead’s perspective, James’s theoretical emphasis on the interior experience of self-sameness and continuity inspired a distinct line of theory, including Erikson’s theory of identity crisis, identity status theory and its derivatives, theories of racial and ethnic identity development, and narrative theories of identity development that emphasize life-story construction. The chapter reviews these distinct lines of theoretical development in the social sciences and concludes with a discussion of pluralism, identity politics, and social ethics in an increasingly interconnected and globalized world.

Keywords: Identity, theory, development

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