With the ‘cultural turn’, the concept of culture has assumed enormous importance in our understanding of the interrelations between social, political, and economic structures, patterns of everyday interaction, and systems of meaning-making. In The SAGE Handbook of Cultural Analysis, the leading figures in their fields explore the implications of this paradigm shift. Addressed to academics and advanced students in all fields of the social sciences and humanities, this Handbook is at once a synthesis of advances in the field, with a comprehensive coverage of the scholarly literature, and a collection of original and provocative essays by some of the brightest intellectuals of our time.

Culture and Identity

Culture and identity

Introduction

Cultural identities are marked by a number of factors – ‘race’, ethnicity, gender and class to name but a few; the very real locus of these factors, however, is the notion of difference. The question of difference is emotive; we start to hear ideas about ‘us’ and ‘them’, friend and foe, belonging and not belonging, in-groups and out-groups, which define ‘us’ in relation to others, or the Other. From this we get ideas about communities, even imagined communities (Anderson, 1983) and ethno-national boundaries. A central question in this debate, however, is: who ascribes a cultural identity, to whom and for what reason? Do we choose our identity, or is it beyond our control? To further complicate this matter we could ...

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