Culture and the Media
The Masked Subject
Gergen, K. J. (1972). Multiple Identity: The Healthy, Happy Human Being Wears Many Masks. Psychology Today 5 (May), pp. 31-35, 64-66. Reprinted in Anderson, W. T. (ed.) (1996). The Fontana Postmodernism Reader. London: Fontana, pp. 132-40.

Psychologists have traditionally assumed that it is normal and healthy for a person to develop a firm and coherent sense of identity. Drawing on a series of intriguing experiments, Gergen suggests that, on the contrary, most subjects wear many different masks, depending on their companions, their situation, and their motives.

Further Reading

Anderson, W. T. (ed.) (1996). The Fontana Postmodernism Reader. London: Fontana, esp. pp. 126-65 (Part 3). An excellent selection of short extracts dealing with all matters postmodern, through which Anderson acts as an engaging and knowledgeable guide.

Bauman, Z. (1992). Intimations of Postmodernity. London: Routledge. Tricky, philosophically informed, sociological postmodernism.

Bauman, Z. (1996). From Pilgrim to Tourist. In: Hall, S. and Du Gay, P. (eds) Questions of Cultural Identity. London: Sage, pp. 18-36. Baumann discusses four types of postmodern identity - the stroller, the vagabond, the tourist and the player - who have replaced the pilgrim of modern times. Poetically abstract, almost allegorical in places.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1984). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Hurley, R., Seem, M., and Lane, H. R. trans. London: Athlone. Weird shit.

Erikson, E. H. (1959). Identity and the Life Cycle: Selected Papers. New York: International Universities Press. Three early papers by Erikson addressing identity development, particularly with regard to childhood and adolescence.

Gergen, K. J. (1991). The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. New York: Basic Books. Gergen argues that, in these postmodern times, our sense of self has changed as we've become increasingly overburdened by communications technologies. Clear and accessible, and much in keeping with the themes of the module.

Goffman, E. (1990). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin. Goffman's classic discussion, first published in 1959, of social life as performative.

Lifton, R. J. (1996). The Protean Style. In: Anderson, W. T. (ed.) The Fontana Postmodernism Reader. London: Fontana, pp. 126-31. A somewhat gloomier reflection on the themes with which Gergen engages in 'Multiple Identity'.