Studies on the Social Construction of Identity and Authenticity  book cover
1st Edition

Studies on the Social Construction of Identity and Authenticity

ISBN 9780367533748
Published May 6, 2022 by Routledge
182 Pages

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Book Description

As identity and authenticity discourses increasingly saturate everyday life, so too have these concepts spread across the humanities and social sciences literatures. Many scholars may be interested in identity and authenticity but lack knowledge of paradigmatic or disciplinary approaches to these concepts. This volume offers readers insight into social constructionist approaches to identity and authenticity. It focuses on the processes of identification and authentication, rather than on subjective experiences of selfhood. There are no attempts to settle what authentic identities are. On the contrary, contributors demonstrate that neither identities nor their authenticity have a single or fixed meaning.

Chapters provide exemplars of contemporary research on identity and authenticity, with significant diversity among them in terms of the identities, cultural milieu, geographic settings, disciplinary traditions, and methodological approaches considered. Contributors introduce readers to a number of established and emerging identity groups from sites around the world, from yogis and punks to fire dancers and social media influencers. Their conceptual work stretches from the micro-analytic to the ethno-national as authors employ a variety of qualitative methods including ethnographic fieldwork, interviewing, and the collection and analysis of naturally-occurring interactions. Several of the chapters look directly at identification and authentication while others focus on the social and cultural backdrops that structure these practices – what unites them is the adoption of social constructionist sensibilities.

This book will appeal to anyone interested in understanding identity and authenticity.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to the Social Construction of Identity and Authenticity (Kaylan C. Schwarz and J. Patrick Williams)
2. Yoga as a Way of Life: Authenticity through Identity Management (Erin F. Johnston)
3. The Authentic “Healthy Everywoman”?: Readers’ Evaluation of Healthy Living Bloggers’ Identities (Alexandra Rodney)
4. Volunteer Tourism, Dis-identification, and the Construction of “Authentic” Travel Experience (Kaylan C. Schwarz)
5. Jugglers, Performers, Artists, and Beach Boys: Authenticating “Real” Fire Dancers in Thailand’s Tourism Industry (Tiffany Pollack and Bussakorn Binson)
6. “Don’t Call Me White” (or Middle-Class): Constructing an Authentic Identity in Punk Subculture (Philip G. Lewin)
7. Authentic Identity as an Achievement: A View from Discursive Psychology (Sue Widdicombe and Yarong Xie)
8. “Honestly, you just have to be famous!” Parody and the Art of Identity Authentication in Singapore’s Social Media Influencer Culture (J. Patrick Williams and Athena M.G. Khoo)
9. The Japanese Humanoid Robot and the Authenticity of Artificial Identity (Yuji Sone)
10. Biobanking and “Qatarization”: Ethno-national Identity in the Molecular Realm (Ian V. McGonigle)

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J. Patrick Williams is Associate Professor of Sociology at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He has many research publications related to individuals who self-identify as subcultural and is particularly interested in the social construction of subcultural authenticities. He is an associate editor of the journal Deviant Behavior and has authored or edited several books, including Authenticity in Culture, Self and Society (2009) and Subcultural Theory: Traditions and Concepts (2011).

Kaylan C. Schwarz is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University, Canada. Her doctoral thesis project, conducted at the University of Cambridge, examined the ways international volunteers employed notions of "authenticity" within their personal travel narratives, attempted to differentiate themselves from "other" volunteers, and navigated difficult representational choices when communicating their volunteer experiences to a public audience via social media.


"This impressive book has much to offer, not only for scholars and students interested in these social-psychological processes or the recent developments in the symbolic interactionist tradition, but also for anyone broadly interested in questions of theory, culture, and society...when the chapters are read together, in various ways they investigate the deep structures of emerging social forms—forms that carry a complex dynamic of cultural transformations in multiple sites of globalized social life.While it seems to be a collection of interactionist research, this book also has the shape of a “multi-sited ethnography” or “global ethnography.” It goes beyond the site of humans to explore the world of robots; it looks into how nation states constructively work to create futuristic identities by re-identifying their national identity and history. It pays attention to social actors who create authentic identities for competitive economic contexts, which often include a rejection of commercialized purposes or at least careful work to differentiate such purposes. Collectively, the chapters bring out the complexity and dilemmaswhich pervade the social-psychological dynamics of people haunted by late-modern social conditions."

Gordon C. Chang, Associate Professor of Sociology, Western Illinois University