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Identity Fluid or Not

Taylor11's picture


“I am an archaeology major and finding pottery sherds are very common.  As an archaeologist it is my job to create a complete picture, a complete identity for the sherds I find.  Right now I’m struggling to find my true self, my authentic identity.  Right now I am a bunch of sherds waiting to be found and be put together.”


Identity Fluid or Not


            When thinking about self-representation and how there are so many different ways one could choose how to represent themselves I struggled to figure out what I was going to write about.  As I sat down thinking about the different ways people represent themselves, how people dress came to mind. Clothing is a form of self-expression and what you wear may define who you are.  But there was a problem with this idea to me because personally I know that I change how I dress based on where I am going and whom I am seeing.  I came to the conclusion that I not only change how I dress but I also change my personality, my identity, when I am around certain people.  For example to some people I am the quite, shy girl in class and to others I am a girl who is constantly talking and arguing to prove her point, and to some I am something else.  So I was left with this thought “what is my true identity, who am I actually”.  I believe that I do have one true, authentic, identity, that my identity isn’t fluid, that I shouldn’t have to feel the need to change who I am based on who I am around.  Everyone has one true self.

            Archaeology is the study of past cultures.  As an archaeology major I have been taught to look at artifacts and use those artifacts to reconstruct a culture and possibly understand human behavior of the past.  One very common artifact found in many archaeological sites are pottery sherds.  Pottery sherds are broken pieces of what once was a whole pot.  Part of the job for archaeologist is to use a pottery sherd and use it to draw a full picture of what the whole pot might possibly looked like (as shown in the picture).   In doing this an archaeologist is creating a complete identity, which can be used to place the pot in a certain category or can make the beginning of a new category.  This is very important because patterns and seeing connection between styles of certain ceramics can possible allow archaeologist to infer a certain aspect of past human behavior.  Now what does this have to do with self-identity?  As seen in my self-portrait I see myself as a bunch of sherds waiting to be found.  Each sherd is a representation of the different ways I act based on whom I am around.  By illustrating myself as pottery sherds, it shows my belief that I’m meant to be whole, that I’m meant to find my true, one self eventually.  My study of archaeology has influenced how I look at identity because as an archaeologist it is my job to take the artifacts found and create a complete identity for the site and the people who left behind those artifacts.     

            In the discussion we have had in class and the readings that we have done, identity isn’t portrayed as being singular but instead seen as fluid.  In Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, her identity is constantly changing and you see her change from one person to the next.  When Marjane was in Europe she struggled with figuring out who she was.  She is constantly changing her appearance, her friends, and how she feels about being from Iran.  In the comic strip entitled “The Vegetable” on pages 189-197 Marjane completely changes how she looks.  She cuts her hair, gets new cloths, and because a punk, however that is just on the outside.  On the inside Marjane is struggling with identifying as an Iranian and how she is lying to her parent about who she is becoming.  In her parents eyes Marjane is seen as the little girl she was before she left.   Marjane knows she is no longer that little girl but instead of sharing the changes she has gone through she lets her parents continue to see her as she once was.  Also within the same strip Marjane goes from wanting to distance herself from being identified as Iranian to yelling “I am Iranian and period of it!”.  This sequence end with the idea that Marjane is finally being true to herself and that she has found who she is but that doesn’t last.  Marjane continues to struggle with who she throughout this book.  She is one person to her parents, she is another to her grandma, she is another to her friends in Europe, she is another to her friends in Iran, she is another to her first ex-husband, the list goes on.  These different identities and the changing of who she is, is confusing to Marjane but these different views and ideas of her make her who she is.  Instead of trying to create one true-self Marjane accepts that fact that she is all of those different people and that is what make her who she is.  To her identity is fluid.  I struggled with this idea.  Throughout the book I was waiting for her to be like “I finally found who I am suppose to be and that I am happy”.  Having all those different pieces of you constantly pulling you in different direction I thought must be tiring.  But after reading this book and thinking about this paper I came to the realization that I too have many different identities and that certain people view me one way and others view me another.  So is identity supposed to be fluid?

            These are two completely different ways to view self-identity.  One way you are suppose to accepts those differences and the other way you are suppose to piece together those difference to create one true-self.  I lean towards the idea that you are suppose to have one true self and that the need to change who are based on who you are around should not exist.  Right now I am the point in my life in which I am trying to figure out who I am, but I know that I will find the person that I am suppose to be; a person who is comfortable with who she is and person who is capable of being the same person not matter whom she is around. 


Anne Dalke's picture

on being boxed in

You organize this paper around a very compelling image (and practice): that of the archeologist piecing together sherds to re-create a whole. Your conceit is that each of us is also composed of many different parts, to be found and re-assembled: “I see myself as a bunch of sherds waiting to be found.”

That image is really just prelude, and it sets you up for the central question of the paper: is the self fluid, changing in response to context, or “true, authentic, comfortable with who she is, capable of being the same person no matter who she is around”? vhiggins’ response offers a mediation between these two choices: “certain spaces call for a certain identity… but does that mean that we don't know our true identity?”—we might perform differently in different situations, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a core self behind the show. How might you test that claim?

Pondering your question, I am reminded of Kate Bornstein’s repeated insistence that any question with a yes/no answer isn’t worth asking: you’ve already boxed yourself in. By setting this paper up as an either/or you haven’t left yourself much room to play with. Is there a way to frame the question that would allow you to do more than assert your belief? I’m interested to know more about why you believe in “an unshakable, immutable identity,” and interested to help you figure out a way to figure out if you have one. How could you run that experiment?

vhiggins's picture

The topic of

The topic of self-representation and identity is a them that we both address in our papers. However, I have never thought of the question of identity fluidity. I think that someone should not have to change too much of who they are depending on their situation, but certain spaces call for a certain identity. For example, I am usually very outspoken and loud, but I know that when I am out to dinner with my family that a nice restaurant isn't the place for me to be loud. I have never tried to place my "one true identity", and I'm not even sure of how to go about finding it, but I feel that a little fluidity isn't so bad. Your level of comfortability when dealing with certain people also contributes to how you act around people you love versus people you hardly know. Everyone, to a certain extent, is more comfortable being themselves in familiar situations, but does that mean that they don't know their true identity?