This book is an introduction to the present debate on identity in the social and cultural sciences, a debate that influences many other fields as well. The first part of the book shows how life courses of human beings in late modernity have been ’released´ from traditional precepts and fixed norms due to the forces of an increasingly flexible and liberalized market economy. Identities under this influence have been destabilized, fragmentized and pluralized, and identity development has become the task of the subject it has become a ’personal project´. The second part discusses the question of idenity in the context of those historical processes which have led to this undermined and destabilized existence: nation, culture, ’race´, ethnicity, gender. Important is here the insight that in the late modern, post-colonial world the construction of individual and collective identities does not take place in a power vacuum but that it is part of a battle for recognition and acknowledgement, fought by subaltern or marginalized groups.
Keywords: identity, modernity and identity, postmodernity and identity, fragmented identity, subject and identity