Essay 5: The concept of human identity

Essay 5: The concept of human identity

Essay 5: The concept of human identity

Think for a moment about your own identity: your age, your gender, your race/ethnicity, your nationality, your religion, your social class, your sexual orientation, your political affiliation(s), your education level, your marital status, and so forth. (See below for a longer list of identity categories.)

Take just one of these identity categories, and imagine it being different. For example, if you are African-American, imagine yourself as Caucasian or Asian. (Or vice versa.) If you are a female, imagine yourself as male. (Or vice versa.) Choose just one identity category to "flip" like this. Leave all the other categories alone. In other words, you’re still yourself in every way except this ONE change to your identity. This might take a little thought. Think of it as a "thought experiment." Don’t rush into it. Give yourself some time to really think it through.

Assignment: Compose a brief "study of contrasts" between your real self and this imaginary other self. How would your life be different? How might this change your outlook on life, your opportunities, your values, your experiences?

A few suggestions:

a. Please try to be respectful of this other identity. Don’t write, "I would hate myself if I were X because they’re all so mean and stupid." Your tone should be rational, intelligent, and thoughtful. Don’t stereotype or draw unwarranted generalizations.

b. You’ll probably need to use the subjunctive mood for the verbs in many of your sentences. NOT: "If I was a woman…" but "If I were a woman…". Notice that "were" is in the subjunctive mood. We often use this for "if" clauses like this: "If I were Jewish…", "If I were Japanese…", "If I were a Republican…", “If I were you…” and so forth.

c. Carefully strategize your structure/organization.

d. Be creative, and try to make some insightful point with your essay. This point will be expressed most succinctly in your thesis statement. You will dwell on it in your introduction and conclusion. The Body of the essay will be mostly the comparing and contrasting of the two identities.

e. Avoid choosing "If I were rich…." These essays are usually boring lists of expensive items one would buy. "If I were the opposite sex…" is also overused and too conventional (but it could work if you put a creative spin on it). Instead, try something that requires a bit more thought and that might actually lead you to a useful insight about yourself.

750-1000 words recommended, at least 5 paragraphs required

You must proofread your paper. But do not strictly rely on your computer’s spell-checker and grammar-checker; failure to do so indicates a lack of effort on your part and you can expect your grade to suffer accordingly. Papers with numerous misspelled words and grammatical mistakes will be penalized. Read over your paper – in silence and then aloud – before handing it in and make corrections as necessary. Often it is advantageous to have a friend proofread your paper for obvious errors. Handwritten corrections are preferable to uncorrected mistakes.

Use a standard 10 to 12 point (10 to 12 characters per inch) typeface. Smaller or compressed type and papers with small margins or single-spacing are hard to read. It is better to let your essay run over the recommended number of pages than to try to compress it into fewer pages.

Likewise, large type, large margins, large indentations, triple-spacing, increased leading (space between lines), increased kerning (space between letters), and any other such attempts at “padding” to increase the length of a paper are unacceptable, wasteful of trees, and will not fool your professor.

The paper must be neatly formatted, double-spaced with a one-inch margin on the top, bottom, and sides of each page. When submitting hard copy, be sure to use white paper and print out using dark ink. If it is hard to read your essay, it will also be hard to follow your argument.


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