Next Culture Workshop: Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Folks interested in identity, boundaries and formal methods of cultural analysis should come and learn at the next Arizona Culture Workshop.

Location: Social Sciences, Room 415
Time: 12 - 1p

Topic:  (Re)Envisioning America: An Application of the Optical Model of Identity to the U.S. Case by Taylor Danielson, doctoral student.

Abstract: Dominant theories of national identity have been criticized for making a number of reductionist assumptions, including the assumption that national identities are either civic or ethnic in character and that these identities are largely undifferentiated across members of a given community. In the following article I explore these assumptions while drawing on Kaufmann’s (2008) optical model of identity to propose that national identity is better conceptualized as a multifaceted phenomenon that exists simultaneously at the national and individual levels. I use latent class analysis and data from the National Identity II module of the 2004 General Social Survey to test these arguments and identify different forms of national identity in the U.S. context. The results of my analyses point to two key findings. First, as expected based on the extant literature, widely shared forms of American national identity at the community level are primarily civic in character. Second, this widely shared civic form of national identity provides the foundation for four distinct types of national identity that exist at the individual level and differ in terms of their relative inclusivity/exclusivity and in the combinations of ethnic and assimilative criteria used to define the boundaries of the national ingroup. These results suggest that: 1) the optical model of identity offers a more nuanced theoretical representation of empirical reality than the dominant ethnic/civic paradigm, and 2) national identities are better conceptualized as combinations of distinct criteria that are used to determine who is and is not a member of the national ingroup.

Published Date: 

02/05/2014 - 16:42