Historical identity assignment

Ross Woods, rev. 2020


This is a specialised assignment. The goal is to to identify and explain significant historical features that comprise cultural identity in a defined group of people. You will find that most of your work is conducting ethnographic interviews, but you might also need to use documentary sources.

How to do it

Follow the normal research process. For this assignment, the following pointers might be especially helpful:

  1. Define the research population and a major phenomenon or event that affects them.
  2. Write a list of questions for ethnographic interviews. For example, you might want to consider some of these kinds of questions as a starting point:
    1. How do people view the event of the past? For example, who were their ancestors? Did they emigrate from somewhere else in the past? Did people come from elsewhere and make changes, e.g. immigrants, invaders?
    2. How do they see themselves as a result of those events?
    3. In their view, what does it mean to be a citizen or community member?
    4. In their view, what does the government do? What rights does it have? What rights does it not have?
    5. What have been the effects of their geographical environment. For example, are they isolated from the main seats of government and commerce?
  3. Gain access to the target community.
  4. Do your interviews.
  5. Do your analysis and look for broader patterns. These questions might be a helpful starting point:
    1. How does each source (or each demographic) have a specific viewpoint or bias?
    2. How does each source (or each demographic) create their own personal "construction" of history.
    3. To what extent does your own perspective affect the "constructed" view?

Other factors

  1. Identify clearly the role of viewpoint and bias of each source,
  2. Account for one’s own contribution in "constructing" the history,
  3. Identify causes and contextual factors contributing to change, including:
    1. identify variations in change patterns
    2. demonstrate historical causality and its limitations
    3. roles of influential institutions
  4. Develop a classification system of social-political-cultural groupings, historical eras, and geographical areas, and identify the limitations of that classification system. (Some borders might be fuzzy or porous.)
  5. Explain (make explicit) the relationships between different eras and geographical areas, and give examples that illustrate your point.
  6. Explain (make explicit) the workings of each social-political-cultural component grouping from an emic viewpoint and gives examples.
  7. Identify any examples of how people are influenced by their concept of the past.
  8. Infer concepts of personal identity that result from historical factors.
  9. Identify, make explicit and give examples of conceptions of citizenship and statehood, and effects of geographical environment