Identity: A Very Short Introduction [#593]
Identity: A Very Short Introduction [#593]


  • Introduces identity, one of the most iconic concepts of our time, which is used ubiquitously but rarely explained
  • Discusses the various uses of "identity" separately for different fields of study--philosophy, psychology, sociology, gender studies, and linguistics
  • Compares Western concepts and theories of identity with similar concepts in other parts of the world
  • Explains how contemporary trends in marketization and globalization have made identity increasingly important to us in the last 50 years
  • Outlines the historical background to the concept of identity

Identity has become one of the most widely used terms today, appearing in many different contexts. Anything and everything has an identity, and identity crises have become almost equally pervasive. Yet "identity" is extremely versatile, meaning different things to different people and in different scientific disciplines. To many its meaning seems self-evident, since its various uses share common features, so often the term is used without a definition of what, exactly, is meant by it. This provokes the core question: What exactly is identity? 
In this Very Short Introduction Florian Coulmas provides a survey of the many faces of the concept of identity, and discusses its significance and varied meanings in the fields of philosophy, sociology, and psychology, as well as politics and law. Tracing our concern with identity to its deep roots in Europe's intellectual history, individualism, and the felt need to draw borderlines, Coulmas identifies the most important features used to mark off individual and collective identities, and demonstrates why they are deemed important. He concludes with a glimpse at the many ways in which literature has engaged with problems of identity throughout history.


Introduction: an identity wave
1. "Who am I?" Identity in philosophy
2. Identity in logic and the classical law of thought
3. Given or constructed? Identity in cultural anthropology
4. Adam and Eve, Hijra, LGBTQs and the shake-up of gender identities
5. Identity politics: promises and dangers
6. "Your station in life." Social identities in our time
7. Citizenship, legal status, and proof of identity--identity as a legal concept
8. Selfhood, character, and personality--the psychology of identity
9. "They don't speak our language." Identity in linguistics
10. Who is behind the mask? Identity in literature and literary criticism
Further reading


Florian Coulmas is Professor of Japanese Society and Sociolinguistics at the IN-EAST Institute of East Asian Studies at Duisburg-Essen University. Prior to this, he has held research and teaching positions at Georgetown University, the National Institute of Japanese Language and Linguistics, and Chuo University. He has published numerous books, including An Introduction to Multilingualism (OUP, 2017) and Writing and Society: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2013). For the past three decades he has served as Associate Editor of the International Journal of the Sociology of Languages, during which time he has observed the steadily increasing use of the concept of identity in both general and scholarly publications.

"By setting the concept of identity in its correct historical, philosophical, cultural, political, and sociological context, Florian Coulmas brilliantly rescues one of the most overused and abused words of recent decades and demonstrates why it has such relevance for contemporary debates" - Professor Roger Goodman

"Coulmas' masterful coverage of a diverse range of literature, from philosophy, law and psychology to linguistics, anthropology, and politics, makes this short introduction a treasure trove for anyone who wishes to understand or research issues of identity in history as well in the contemporary world. An invaluable guide to a fascinating field." - Li Wei, Chair of Applied Linguistics, University College London, UK


ISBN : 9780198828549

Florian Coulmas
168 ページ
111 x 174 mm
Very Short Introductions





Identity: A Very Short Introduction [#593]

Identity: A Very Short Introduction [#593]

Identity: A Very Short Introduction [#593]