Identity and Interaction

Module code: L4066A
Level 6
30 credits in autumn teaching
Teaching method: Seminar, Lecture
Assessment modes: Coursework

This module explores microsociological theories of the self, social identity and social interaction, drawing particularly on Symbolic Interactionism and Goffman's dramaturgical theory. The aim is to show how the ostensibly private world of individual selfhood is created and shaped by social processes, culture and interaction order.

The first half of the module examines different approaches to understanding identity: from the philosophy of mind and personhood, through theories of group membership and categorisation; narrative and biographical models of the 'storied self'; performativity; and poststructuralist ideas about identity fragmentation, multiplicity and the discursive constitution of subjectivities.

The second part of the module looks in detail at two related theories of social interaction - Symbolic Interactionism and Goffman's dramaturgy - and their empirical applications, using illustrative examples from published studies. Topics covered here include: role-making, taking, play and conflict; meanings, gestures and symbols; strangers and outsiders; Goffman's theatrical analogy; behaviour in public places (etiquette, civility and interaction rituals); deviant and stigmatised identities; the negotiated order of institutional life; and secrecy, lies, betrayal and deception.

The module will be assessed by a 6,000 word essay, in the form of either a critical commentary on the social formation of one type of social identity or a reflexive portfolio of self-identity.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of different theories of selfhood and identity in the social sciences, and consider their relative merits
  • Explain and analyse the contributions of Symbolic Interactionist and dramaturgical models of social interaction
  • Assimilate and apply material from recent academic research (and where relevant, personal experiences), to illustrate the theoretical approaches covered in the course.
  • Critically consider the view that social identities are created, formed, negotiated and changed through experiences of social interaction.
  • Engage with the central debate about whether there is a core, essential self beneath the surface level of performances, narratives and discourses.
  • Make appropriate use of empirical data and theoretical work to produce coherent and detailed written work for generalist and specialist audiences