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Embodying the Postmodern Self: Ecstatic Ritual as a New Mode of Youth Identity Work

Contributions from European Symbolic Interactionists: Reflections on Methods

ISBN: 978-1-78441-854-0, eISBN: 978-1-78441-853-3

ISSN: 0163-2396

Publication date: 9 March 2015

Abstract

This paper examines how young people develop meaningful self-concepts in the postmodern social world. Drawing from an ethnographic investigation of punk subculture, I explore how identity work is performed when young people are saturated with competing self-definitions and encouraged to engage in reflexive self-doubt. Focusing on the ecstatic qualities of concerts, I describe a complex process of identity formation wherein youth emotionally experience their identities through ritual performance rather than constructing them through institutional affiliation or narrative. My analysis draws heavily from Bourdieu’s practice theory and the existential phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty, emphasizing the centrality of embodiment and performativity to postmodern identity. I conclude with a discussion of how postmodern theories of the nonself exaggerate the insecurity of contemporary identity, and I outline a new theoretical framework regarding identity formation that bridges the literatures on subjectivity and embodiment with classical work in symbolic interactionism.

Keywords

Citation

Lewin, P. (2015), "Embodying the Postmodern Self: Ecstatic Ritual as a New Mode of Youth Identity Work", Contributions from European Symbolic Interactionists: Reflections on Methods (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 44), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 161-195. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163-239620150000044008

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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