The focus of the 5th edition of Political and Economic Self-Constitution seminar was on citizenship identity and education as we see the topic to be of great importance in the changing world. Social, political, economic reasons make more and more people leave their homes and move to other cities and countries what inevitably undermines their existing identities and make them form new ones. In this processes education is considered to play a key role in shaping new communities and societies by effecting identities of a person.
Identity is a much questioned concept. Two contradictory overarching perspectives exist: an essentialist view focusing on separate single and
distinguished categories such as nationality, class, gender etc. As opposed to this, identity can be understood from a post-modern
perspective as multiple and elective. Identity is not a single one but fluid, shifting and multi-dimensional. Social constructionists talk
about an individual’s multiple identities which are socially determined, contextual and discursive.
Identity is a complex and contested concept. In some contexts and in some periods in history one’s identity has been defined by membership of
a particular group, or series of groups – such as nationality, gender, class, occupation – each of which appears to be differentiated and have
a well-defined boundary. While in earlier periods identities shaped by class, region, family, gender and work were ascribed, directing and
constraining the individual’s life trajectory (Giddens, 1991; Beck, 1992), the individual now is said to have mobility and choice in what Bauman
(2000) has memorably described as ‘liquid modernity’: he suggests that identity is constructed in a social context and located in contingent
and temporal relationships: the past, present, future and place disturb our practice of identity as we ask who we are and who we intend to be
As an example Pinto (2008) draws our attention to the discursive meaning of ‘Europeanness’. For some, European identity is associated with the European Union, and for others in Western Europe is linked culturally to Greco-Roman civilization and Christianity, with eastern contributions barely
mentioned. Some argue that European identity is formed in relationship to the other, be it America, the East or Islam. It is also seen as part
of the EU’s ideological project to fight discrimination, racism and xenophobia and to promote values of tolerance and respect.
From socio-psychological perspective the concept of identity was developed by H. Tajfel and J.C. Turner (1979) based on belonging to the group including notions of in-group and out-group. Later on social psychologists started to study social identities in connection with values, beliefs, attitudes, emotions. G. Duveen and B. Lloyd (1986) underline meaning of culture in analyzing social identities. They offer to consider social identities as internalization of social representations of groups to which individuals belong. K. Korostelina (2003) offered the concept of the system of social identities.
According to K.V. Korostelina (2003) social identity should fulfill the following functions: self-esteem, social status, personal security, guarantee of social defense, possibility of personal growth. If due to social changes social identity stops fulfilling its functions such identity gradually loses its meaning and disappears. Even weak influence can break equilibrium in such an open system as identity. Formation of new outgroups, change of group status lead to restructure of system of identities, formation of new identities, contradiction between them, what cause changes in social behavior of a person. If a new identity fulfills necessary functions it quickly replaces the elder one (Korostelina, 2003).
Understanding of such a contradictory concept as identity requires multidisciplinary approach including history, anthropology, political science, economics, social psychology, pedagogics, and so on.
Introduction to V international seminar: “Political and economic self-constitution: Citizenship identity and education” which took place at University of the Peloponnese on May 26th, 2017 in Corinth, Greece.