The term “social construction” signifies that our understanding of the world is built (or constructed) from every day social interactions. In relation to identity, social constructionist theory (SCT) suggests that we actively construct our identities from the social tools available to us, the most prominent one being language.
The theory views identity as provisional and dynamic as well as historically and culturally specific. Unlike other theories on identity, SCT merges personal and social identities into one which are then said to be used as social tool to help us navigate through life. A huge influence and one which facilitates the understanding of identity is that of power relations. But how do these main features help us understand the concept of identity? This essay seeks to answer this very question.
Language is by far the most powerful and influential social tool that humans possess. This social process enables us to communicate and share our understanding of the world to create what some may call “natural understanding”. However by choosing and designing language, does this not suggest that concepts such as identity are constructed?
When conveying our identity through for example the Twenty Statements Test, social relations can be held accountable for our choice in identity (Phoenix, 2002). Kenneth Gergen’s (1999) account of his identity portrays how his identity was constructed through social relation. His central identity was associated with a pen which through his admiration of his parents he recognised that he too could gain powerful social status as a published academic. This was not a natural development but an aspect which he built into his life to assemble his identity. His account also illuminates another important aspect of SCT, that of power. In forming our identities we seek power through relationships causing them to be only as powerful as we accord them to be and therefore is relational.
Our autobiographical narratives also...