Modes, Mechanisms, Types and Traps of Identity Change: Comparative and Explanatory Tools

  • Jennifer Todd
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Compromise after Conflict book series (PSCAC)


This chapter develops a general typology of identity change. It distinguishes recategorization; shifting classificatory schemas; and reinterpretation. It argues that reinterpretation of meanings, norms, assumptions (with the correlated practical changes) is the most general form of identity change. It outlines empirical types of change—from reaffirmation to transformation—and shows the mechanisms by which each type of change affects its social impact. This introduces normative agency into social explanation, adding a micro-level cultural dimension to multi-levelled explanations of social change. The chapter shows how traps of identity change occur where social resources and cultural repertoires lead to identity-projects almost certain in the given context to fail, and to generate constituencies of the disappointed and disillusioned ready for mobilization.


Recategorization Reclassification Reinterpretation Typology Multi-levelled processual explanation Public norms Cosmopolitanism Pluralism 


  1. Abdelal, R., Herrera, Y. M., Johnston, A. I., & McDermott, R. (2009). Measuring Identity: A Guide for Social Scientists. Cambridge: CUP.Google Scholar
  2. Albert, M., Paradis, E., & Kuper, A. (2015). Interdisciplinary Promises versus Practices in Medicine: The Decoupled Experiences of Social Sciences and Humanities Scholars. Social Sciences and Medicine, 126, 17–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ashmore, R. D., Deaux, K., & McLaughlin-Volpe, T. (2004). An Organizing Framework for Collective Identity: Articulation and Significance of Multidimensionality. Psychological Bulletin, 130(1), 80–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barth, F. (1969). Ethnic Groups and Boundaries. Boston: Little, Brown and Co.Google Scholar
  5. Bayat, A. (2010). Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East. Stanford: Stanford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bolger, D. (1990). In High Germany. Stillorgan, Ireland: New Island Books.Google Scholar
  7. Bursell, M. (2012). Name Change and Destigmatization among Middle Eastern Immigrants in Sweden. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 35(3), 471–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Calhoun, C. (2007a). Social Solidarity as a Problem for Cosmopolitan Democracy. In S. BenHabib, I. Shapiro, & D. Petranovic (Eds.), Identities, Affiliations and Allegiances (pp. 285–302). Cambridge: CUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Calhoun, C. (2007b). The Class Consciousness of Frequent Travellers: Toward a Critique of Actually Existing Cosmopolitanism. South Atlantic Quarterly, 101(4), 809–977.Google Scholar
  10. Chandra, K. (2012). Constructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Claeson, B. (2017). The Importance of Localizing Identity Change. Parading in Derry-Londonderry 2000–2014. Unpublished thesis (MA), University College Dublin.Google Scholar
  12. Conversi, D. (2004). Ethnoradicalism as a Mirror Image of State Centralisation: The Basque Paradigm in Franco’s Spain. In F. Daftary & S. Troebst (Eds.), Radical Ethnic Movements in Contemporary Europe (pp. 57–70). Oxford: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  13. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  14. Ganiel, G. (2008). Evangelicalism and Conflict in Northern Ireland. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Garry, J., & McNicholl, K. (2015). Understanding the ‘Northern Irish’ Identity. Briefing Paper for Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from
  16. Goikoetxea, J. (2013). Nationalism and Democracy in the Basque Country (1979–2012). Ethnopolitics: Formerly Global Review of Ethnopolitics, 12(3), 268–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hayes, B. C., & McAllister, I. (2013). Conflict to Peace: Politics and Society in Northern Ireland over Half a Century. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hoewer, M. (2014). Crossing Boundaries during Peace and Conflict: Transforming Identity in Chiapas and in Northern Ireland. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hutchinson, J. (2005). Nations as Zones of Conflict. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Jaspal, R., & Breakwell, G. M. (2014). Identity Process Theory: Identity, Social Action and Social Change. Cambridge: CUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jenkins, R. (2008). Social Identity (3rd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Keating, M. (2001). Plurinational Democracy. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lamont, M. (2000). The Dignity of the Working Man. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Lamont, M., & Mizrachi, N. (2012). Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things: Responses to Stigmatization in Comparative Perspective. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 35(3), 365–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lamont, M., Moraes Silva, G., Welburn, J., Guetzkow, J., Mizrachi, N., Herzog, H., & Reis, E. (2016). Getting Respect: Responding to Stigmatization and Discrimination. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lamont, M., Morning, A., & Mooney, M. (2002). North African Immigrants Respond to French Racism. Demonstrating Equivalence Through Universalism. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 25(3), 390–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Levitt, P. (2005). Building Bridges: What Migration Scholarship and Cultural Sociology Have to Say to Each Other. Poetics, 33, 49–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lybarger, L. D. (2007). Identity and Religion in Palestine: The Struggle between Islamism and Secularism in the Occupied Territories. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  29. MacIntyre, A. (1981). After Virtue. A Study in Moral Theory. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  30. Malešević, S. (2017). From Sacrifice to Prestige: Visualising the Nation in 19th and 21st Century Serbia and Croatia. Visual Studies, 32(3), 212–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McAuley, J. (2016). Very British Rebels? The Culture and Politics of Ulster Loyalism. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  32. McGarry, J., & O’Leary, B. (1995). Explaining Northern Ireland; Broken Images. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  33. McNicholl, K. (2017). Political Constructions of a Cross-community Identity in a Divided Society: How Politicians Articulate Northern Irishness. National Identities, 1–19. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from
  34. Mitchell, C., & Ganiel, G. (2011). Evangelical Journeys: Choice and Change in a Northern Irish Northern Irish Religious Sub-culture. Dublin: University College Dublin Press.Google Scholar
  35. O Ciardha, E., & Vojvoda, G. (Eds.). (2015). Politics of Identity in Post-Conflict States: The Bosnian and Irish Experience (pp. 92–104). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  36. Offe, C. (2015). Europe Entrapped. Oxford: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  37. Osterhammel, J. (1997). Colonialism: A theoretical Overview. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener.Google Scholar
  38. Roth, W. D. (2012). Race Migrations: Latinos and the Cultural Transformation of Race. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Ruane, J., & Todd, J. (1996). The Dynamics of Conflict in Northern Ireland: Power, Conflict, and Emancipation. Cambridge: CUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Smithey, L. (2011). Unionists, Loyalists and Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Snow, D. A., & Machelek, R. (1984). The Sociology of Conversion. Annual Review of Sociology, 10, 167–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Todd, J. (2005). Social Transformation, Collective Categories and Identity Change. Theory and Society, 34(4), 429–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Trew, K. (1998). The Northern Irish Identity. In A. Kershan (Ed.), A Question of Identity (pp. 60–76). Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  44. Waters, M. C. (1999). Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Weber, E. (1976). Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France 1870–1914. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Wimmer, A. (2013). Ethnic Boundary Making: Institutions, Power, Networks. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer Todd
    • 1
  1. 1.Geary InstituteUniversity College DublinDublinIreland

Personalised recommendations