Full Text

Identities and Discourse

Charles Antaki

Subject Communication Studies » Language and Social Interaction

Key-Topics discourse, identity

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Social scientists are not interested in identity in the sense of an individual's unique name and address. They are interested in identity in the sense of the category that an individual belongs to (or is made to belong to). All languages have explicit names which allocate people to a category of person (e.g., madre in Spanish, umm in Arabic, or mother in English), an occupation ( ingeniero , mohandass , enginee , respectively), or a position in society that has loose definitional criteria ( gamberro , ' ozbagui , hooligan ). Much quantitative social science was (and is) devoted to “cover-sheet” identities like those, or still more general ones like gender, race, and class, and how they correlate with such variables as income, health, education, and crime. Social scientists who do qualitative research, however, take another tack. They believe that what is interesting about identities is how they are constituted – how society invents and perpetuates them. The way that society categorizes people, the laws it draws up, the visual images it promotes, the jokes it allows – all these are discourses of identity . These discourses can be mapped in a descriptive way, to make a list of the features that society ascribes to any given identity category (one could, e.g., count the number of times the word “teenager” co-occurs with references to education, sex, television, and so on ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top