Identity, Personality & Agency (E-Learning 3.0)


One needs it to be oneself; yet being oneself solely on the strength of one’s free choice means a life full of doubts and fears of error … Self construction of the self is, so to speak a necessity. Self confirmation of the self is an impossibility’(Bauman 1988:62).

Identity: sharing an identity suggests some active engagement on our part (…) We choose to identify with a particular identity or group (…)  identity requires some element of choice and awareness on our part (…) late modernity suggests that identity matters more now because we have more choice (…) Identity is marked by similarity, that is of the people like us, and by difference, of those who are not (…) symbols and representations are important in marking the ways in which we share identities with some people and distinguish ourselves as different from others (…)  identities are necessarily the product of the society in which we live and our relationship with others. Identity provides a link between individuals and the world in which they live. Identity combines how I see myself and how others see me. Identity involves the internal and the subjective, and the external. It is a socially recognized position, recognized by others, not just by me (…) The link between myself and others is not only indicated by the connection between how I see myself and how other people see me, but also by the connection between what I want to be and the influences, pressures and opportunities which are available (…) The concept of identity encompasses some notion of human agency; an idea that we can have some control in constructing our own identities (…) identities are not fixed and constant; they change too (…) The body is also an important component of personal identity (…) identity is forged in the social sphere is located within temporal relations; a sense of the past, present and future haunts identity-work and identity practices (…) The inter-relationship between past, present and future in the on-going work of developing an identity suggests that who we are, what we do and what we become changes over the life course and furthermore, the work of identity remains fragile and unstable to the point where settlement is unachievable (…) Something as ordinary, everyday and ubiquitous as talking to others becomes central to defining oneself and one’s place in the world (…) Volsiniv identifies two poles: the ‘I-experience’, which tends towards extermination as it does not receive feedback from the social milieu; and the ‘we-experience’ which grows with consciousness and positive social recognition (…) identity is confirmed through processes of social recognition and challenged through processes of misrecognition. Identity formation from this perspective remains structured through the identification of processes of ‘sameness and difference’ (…) it is possible to see identity as relational – formed and played out in relation to those who are similar and those who are different (…) Identity can be seen as multiple: spoken through and in dialogue with a range of social categories and positions (…) Significantly, identity is contextually specific

Personality: the sort of person I am (…) it describes qualities individuals may have, such as being outgoing or shy, internal characteristics

Agency the degree of control which we ourselves can exert over who we are



Kehily, M. J. (2009). What is identity? A sociological perspective. In: ESRC Seminar Series: The educational and social impact of new technologies on young people in Britain, 2 Mar 2009, London School of Economics, UK.

OpenLearn, Identity in question: What is identity? Retrieved from here

Image: Facial casts of Nias islanders, J.P. Kleiweg de Zwaan, 1910, Rijks Museum (personal collection)

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