Analytical Essay

Identity and Representation: You will write an analytical essay that explores your identity in terms of your own group memberships.



Identity and Representation


Context and Description


When we are asked about our identity, often we describe it in terms of the groups that we belong to, such as a sports team, club or other kinds of social groups. We may also mention our school, occupation or a specific workplace. We may think of our identity in terms of our gender, ethnicity or nationality. Where we live–the neighborhood or type of residence–may also influence our sense of who we are. The languages we speak in those groups also shapes our sense of who we are and how others see us. When we encounter a member of groups other than our own, sometimes it becomes necessary to reflect on and explain the values, assumptions and practices of the groups we belong to in order to resolve conflicts and to facilitate communication. Joining a new social group may also challenge those values, assumptions and practices that come from our pre-existing membership in other groups. The purpose of this project is to explore how identity is shaped, negotiated, and represented in relation to our membership in various groups.


Write an analytical essay that explores your identity in terms of your own group memberships. For this project, you may focus on any of the following:


  • the complex construction of identity through membership in various (and sometimes conflicting/competing) groups
  • how you represent your identity in relation to the social expectations or stereotypes of being a member of a group (expectations vs. reality)
  • the tension or struggle you encounter as a member of certain groups (e.g., how you represent yourself to others from different groups)
  • how entering a new, possibly unfamiliar group (for example, moving away from home and/or starting college) affects the values and assumptions you brought with you


As you explore your ideas, consider the following questions:  What social groups do you belong to?  How are these groups categorized (social groups, organizations, athletic teams, ethnic groups, or religious groups; by nationality, gender, neighborhoods, or communities)? What aspects of the group memberships are negotiable? Which ones are fixed or difficult to change? What aspects, characteristics, or expectations, if any, of these groups overlap with one another?  Do they compete with one another?  How are these groups perceived by people who are not members of those groups? Are there stereotypes associated with a certain group or groups you belong to?  If so, what are they, and to what extent do you see those stereotypes occurring in others or yourself? How do those stereotypes affect you and people around you? How do your group memberships affect the ways in which you communicate with others? How do your memberships influence how you relate to others or how others relate to you?


Explore all possible communities to which you belong and look for the one or ones that seem to have the richest potential for exploring your cultural identity.


Learning Objectives


In this project, you will learn to:


  • reflect upon your own background and experiences to convey and articulate specific thoughts, ideas, and knowledge to your audience
  • select, arrange and develop details from your personal experience and the perceptions of others to generate insights
  • think critically about your identity and how it is shaped by your membership in different groups
  • think critically about the facets of identity construction and representation in various situations


Process Genres


Here are a few process genres that might help you develop ideas for the profile essay:


  • Write a list that explores the various memberships or social groups that you belong to (past and present).  Then, identify any places where these memberships interact, intersect, or overlap.
  • List moments when memberships in multiple groups created conflict in your identity construction or representation.
  • Write short paragraphs that:
    • explain your transition into a new social group, and how that experience affected the values and assumptions you originally had.
    • identify when you felt that you did not “fit in” to a certain group, and how that experience influenced your perception of that group.
    • articulate ways in which a significant life change (for example, moving away from home, starting college, moving to another country) has affected, altered, or reshaped your identity (and how you represent it).




The primary audience for this project will be people who are interested in learning about identity construction and representation.  Additionally, your audience will include people who are also struggling to negotiate their identity. By reading your profile, the audience may become more aware of how their own identity is influenced by group memberships and even find ways to negotiate their identity. The secondary audience is your instructor and peers, who may want to learn more about who you are and where you are coming from.


Analytical Essay


The analytical essay addresses an issue or question by breaking down the topic into its key components and examining each of the components as well as how they relate to the issue or question at hand.


The introduction sets the stage by calling attention to a particular issue or question. This goal can be accomplished by describing a situation–such as a personal experience or a recent event–that illustrates the issue or question to be addressed. It could also begin by stating the conventional understanding of the topic to be challenged through the analysis. By the end of the introduction, the reader should have a sense of what kind of argument is going to be presented and how the argument is going to be developed–that is, what people, things or ideas are going to be analyzed. The main body of the analytical essay may begin with an overview of the object of analysis followed by point-by-point analyses of its components that are closely related to the main argument. The conclusion resolves the issue or question by providing insights that can be drawn from the analysis.


In this project, the issue or question will be related to the concept of identity in relation to membership in various groups. The object of analysis will be your own identity–how it is shaped by prior or pre-existing memberships in social and cultural groups as well as how your identity is negotiated and represented by yourself or by others as you move from one cultural context to another.

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