Personal identity and social structure in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin: A plural identities approach
This dissertation explores the impact of self-identification and identification of and by others on social processes. It examines the importance of perceived similarities and differences as forming--in conjunction with contextual factors--a primary mechanism through which the individual social actor actively helps to maintain or modify his social environment, and identifies the various principles involved in these complex interactions. The thesis argues that such identification processes are informed by political, economic and social considerations and that a tension exists between personal identity (self-situated) and social identity (other-situated) such that the former will tend to be self-enhancing whereas the "politics of assignment" will rule the latter. It also suggests that age, class, "race," ethnic, cultural, territorial, occupational, ideological, generational and gender-based identities, to name but a few, are all potentially salient identity criteria, and should therefore be given equal consideration in more comprehensive sociological studies of social identification processes. All of this is consolidated into a new concept of social structure, one which is essentially more process-oriented than most earlier conceptualizations. By focusing on social "structuring" rather than on "social structure" per se, this study thus offers a conceptual framework through which we might better incorporate the notion of social agency--and hence social dynamics--into this most important of sociological concepts.
The work begins with the theoretical overview of previous conceptualizations of social structure within the disciplines of Sociology and Anthropology, as well as the various theoretical issues to which they give rise. This is then given more concrete expression in an examination of notions of social structure inherent in models of Caribbean society. A response to perceived limitations and confusions inherent in previous definitions of social structure is subsequently provided in the form of a new conceptual framework, christened the "Plural Identities Approach." The latter is then illustrated with particular reference to Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, a tiny bi-national Caribbean island which forms part of the Netherlands and French Antilles respectively.
0451: Social psychology