Working Paper 196
The Concept of Identity in the Ethnology and Social Anthropology of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries – a preliminary report
John R. Eidson
Department 'Integration and Confilct'
Year of publication
Number of pages
Working Paper 196
Supplements and Charts
Supplement 1 - List of Primary Sources – in chronological order of the date of publication
Supplement 2 - Quotations from Primary Sources
Chart 1 - Changing frequencies in the occurrence of ‘national identity’ and related expressions in published texts written in English from 1700 to 2000
Chart 2 - Changing frequencies in the occurrence of ‘nationale Identität’ and related expressions in published texts written in German from 1700 to 2000
Chart 3 - Changing frequencies in the occurrence of ‘identité nationale’ and related expressions in published texts written in French from 1700 to 2000
Existing histories of the concept of identity are too narrowly conceived and neglect the methods of lexical semantics and Begriffsgeschichte. Rather than focusing on Erik Erikson, this paper analyzes occurrences of ‘identity’ and equivalent expressions in over 700 texts published in English, German, and French since 1700. In the first phase of the study, all occurrences of ‘identity’ in the sample, including all senses in which the word is used, are analyzed to determine when semantic innovations occurred and how they spread. The focus in the second phase is on other expressions (e.g., ‘character’) that correspond roughly to selected senses of ‘identity’, insofar as they co-occur in texts with the same adjectives and verbs and fulfill a comparable semantic function. Finally, it can be shown that these other expressions were replaced by ‘identity’ in the late twentieth century. Three key senses of the word emerge from the fundamental meaning of ‘sameness’: personal identity, since about 1700; collective identity (of a category or group of people), since the early 1800s; and social-psychological identity (of the individual), since the 1940s. Beginning in about 1840, Americanist ethnologists played a key role in formulating the concept of collective identity.