Althusser's Work On Identity And The Development Of Identity

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The previous sections have drawn several developmental phases of identity construction conceptualisation. In order to approach the current theorising of identity, this section elaborates the account of identity as discursive practices. The section will first recap some key points from the previous studies. Given this linking back to the previous studies of identity, new shift to various parts constituting identity conceptualisation are discussed in between the explanation of the ‘discursive view’. Later moving on to the discussion of the current work on identity from a more dynamic discourse analytical angles.
1. The discursive approach to identity - an overview
The development of discourse study and the attribution of growing movements from
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This perspective is developed and introduced by a French philosopher Althusser (1971) with his notion of ideology and ‘interpellation’. Althusser argued that it is ideology that transforms us into ‘subjects’. Given an example of a person knocks on a door, the person inside will only open the door once the person from the outside sounds familiar. Another instance is seeing a friend on the street, the way we use to signal to him/her that we recognise him/her are either saying ‘hi’ or give the friend a handshake. Drawing from such an observation, Althusser claimed that by doing so human beings have constantly taken part in the everyday ritual of ideological recognitions. And it is through these ideological recognitions and interpellation that bring about the being of the ‘subjects’. Althusser’s essay not only explains how people internalise ideology, but also paves the way for the account of identity constructed through discourse. This is precisely revisited and commented by Butler…show more content…
Foucault in his influential work has not only echoed the idea of ideology making people ‘subjects’, but also further tied the ideology and power to identity. Under Foucault’s account, the enactment of power is permeate and it is power and dominant discourses that produce identities. By viewing social arrangements and practices (ideology) determining and producing the subjects, Foucault went on to even remove and erase the subjects by shifting from examining the process of identification to the discourse that forms subjectivity. This model implies the inscription of subjects’ identities to the dominant discourses available and this process is to reproduce social inequalities. The subjects hence do not have the agentive significance, rather than acquiring the world’s ideology, serving the hegemonic and preserving the status quo (Benwell and Stokoe, 2006). This line of conceptualising identity is reflected through many later studies using Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), a Foucauldian-inspired analytical framework, to explore political identity, social power and imbalance.
Foucalt’s account, which treated subjects as the mere product of ideology and power, faced some challenges because it failed to “elaborate a theory of how individuals are summoned into place in the discursive structures” (Hall, 2000:26-27).
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