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Becoming Yourself: The Construction of Identity in Contemporary Western Societies

Every day you are encouraged in Western societies to “express yourself”, “be true to yourself”, “stand out from the crowd”, “sell yourself”, “be the best you can be”. But who, actually, are you? Where does your identity and individuality come from? Do you fully choose and control it? Sociological research shows that many of the things we hold true about ourselves are, to some extent, illusions constructed by powerful social forces which we are not always aware of. Sociological research also demonstrates that several of the things you think are unique about yourself are actually elements of broader social patterns.

This module examines the construction of identity in western societies, analysing how our contemporary identities are shaped by a range of past and present phenomena, including social inequalities, scientific developments or political and economic changes, (such as the emergence of neoliberalism or the development of advertising). Throughout the module, we will make links between social structures and personal experience – in other words, we will examine the very strong connections between the biggest social forces all around us, and the smallest, most intimate aspects of your identity, your feelings and your life.



Module Director:

Maria do Mar Pereira