“It becomes an identity. A part of you.”

A screenshot of a woman holding a child's foot with a cut

The New York Times published an interesting article yesterday — focusing on US factory worker, Shannon Mulcahy,  someone who is caught up in the effects of globalization (aka US jobs moving to Mexico).

I’ll leave it to you to read it, but among the many things that caught my eye was that line, quoted above, in my title.

The paragraph leading up to it read:

A screenshot of a conversation between friends

What made that line seem to jump out was the apparent ease of someone (say, the person speaking with the reporter,  or the reporter including it in the article, or maybe even a person reading that line over their morning coffee — and not giving it a second thought) understanding identity to be a gradual accretion, more akin to layers built over spans of geologic time — or one afternoon shift after another, for decades, leading to those worn hands… — than a pristine and timeless inner core somehow projected outward.

Identity becomes — it’s not a static aspect of Being.

The interesting part, then, is that many of us so easily read an article such as this, containing such a claim, perhaps nodding in agreement concerning how her identity as a specific type of worker built over time, while at the same time presuming that other aspects of who we take ourselves to be — and, yes, who we take others to be — are immutable, enduring, or uniquely sprung from the ground fully formed.

It suggests to me we’re all able to be theorists who historicize identity — at least some of the time.

The curious question, then, and the one that might need answering, is when and why the theorizing sometimes stops.

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