Introducing Identity Trouble

Caldas-Coulthard, Carmen Rosa and Rick Iedema. Identity Trouble: Critical Discourse and Contested Identities. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. Print.

Unlike the last one, this book is pretty dense, and so I’m going to break it down chapter by chapter.


In the introduction to the book, Iedema and Caldas-Coulthard write that identity is the tension between the past and what we say and are right now, between our normalized behaviors and those we can consciously change.

Whereas in the past identity was fairly coherent, now in the grand PoMo tradition, “stable truths appear to have become unstable truces”—and, perhaps more interesting, they write that “we require new resources and skills to manage the intensification and speed of identity formation and reformation” (1)

Iedema and Caldas-Coulthard draw heavily on Sloterdijk’s (2005) exploration of the historical development of identity, focusing on maritime expansionism and Jules Verne’s exhortation to “be mobile amidst mobility.” According to Sloterdijk, the maritime movement led to a new, mobile sense of self without borders but with the ability to negotiate around fixed points. “To realize oneself in this fluidity as subject—that is the absolute entrepreneurial freedom.” But this also leads to “self without place.”

Our “oceanic self” (Sloterdijk) is now a “mobility amidst mobility” (Verne).

The question of this book, then, is: how do these “displaced selves” construct identities and places to inhabit? There is an expectation that we will re-invent our identities to suit the shifting audiences we encounter, and the project of the book is to examine when and how this process does—or does not—occur.

So…we will see. Paging through the table of contents, I don’t think all of the chapters are going to be useful for me, but I will certainly blog selections over the next few days. 


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