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Identity in Communicative Contexts

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Edited By Kamila Ciepiela

The central focus of the book is the identification of the ways people engage in communicative encounters to (re)constitute personal and social identities. Its aim is to identify some principal themes that have emerged from the ample research on identity in a variety of contexts. A common thread of the articles is the role of language in the construction and performance of identities. It embraces an exploration of the sociocultural environments in which human communication takes place, the interplay between these environments, and the construction and display of identities through our communicative performances. Research located in a range of literary, sociological, psychological and linguistic perspectives is used to illustrate the potential of communication in establishing a sense of identity.

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Identity as argumentation: Argumentation as identity

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Abstract The relationship between identity and argument has not received great attention in the literature of argumentation, which is more concerned with whether or not arguments put forward are reasonable and convincing than with who is making them and what they may wish to say about themselves by doing so. In this paper, however, I discuss two occasions, which, I believe, are common enough, when they are closely linked: how the expression of identity may be used as a substitute for argument, and how argumentation may be used to build identity.

In his essay on ‘Self-reliance’, R.W. Emerson wrote: ‘If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument.’ (1841) He was in no doubt that this was a bad thing; that every individual should put forward his own ideas, not those of a group with which he identifies, but for many people a sense of belonging to a particular group with a defined set of beliefs or values may be a convenient way of setting out one’s position to others without having to actually go through the arguments oneself. I investigate whether this can ever be an acceptable form of argument or whether we might identify an Emersonian ‘sect fallacy’.

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