chapter  1
24 Pages

Introduction to the social construction of identity and authenticity

ByKaylan C. Schwarz, J. Patrick Williams

As identity and authenticity discourses increasingly saturate everyday life, so too have these concepts spread across the humanities and social sciences literatures. Many scholars may be interested in identity and authenticity but lack knowledge of paradigmatic or disciplinary approaches to these concepts. While the book as a whole (which this chapter introduces) offers readers insight into social constructionist approaches to identity and authenticity, this chapter equips readers with necessary background information relevant to our perspective. After providing a brief historical sketch of authenticity, we distinguish between critical realist and social constructionist paradigms, linking the former primarily to psychological studies of the authentic self and the latter to sociological studies of authentic identities. We then raise several considerations for social constructionist research related to representation, informant selection, and conceptualization. Finally, we introduce the chapters in the volume, highlighting their theoretical and empirical significance.