A Question of Identity

‘Who am I?’ and ‘Who are we?’ are the existential, foundational questions in our lives. In our modern world there is no construct more influential than ‘identity’ – whether as individuals or groups.

 The concept of ‘identity’ influences the way individuals define themselves in relation to their contexts, and affects how we sustain relationships within religious and ethnic groups. The recent surge of interest in ‘identity’ in the social sciences and later in thehumanities has given birth to new conceptualizations regarding the formation and development of ‘identity’. Yet ‘identity’ has, for the most part, retained its elusive character. Contradictory views persist regarding the means, or evenpossibility of measuring and describing it. Our research group will place ‘identity’ at the center of our investigation. Weassume that identity is not static but dynamic, developing and changing through interactions.

The main goal of our research group is to study the influence of a variety of historical, social, and political contexts on identity formation of diverse groups in various settings. As we consider these different cases, we will focus more specifically on majority-minority relations and their influence on identity formation of both majority and minority group members. We will also examine how relations between center and periphery, and motherland and diaspora, affect how identity is expressed in these contexts. More specifically our research efforts will focus on the study of the hows,wheres,and whens of identity formation in four different contextual settings: archaeological sites in Classical-Period Galilee;

Second Temple period textual records on Diaspora Judaism; Jews and Christians in Sasanian Persia; andorganizationalglobal sites. These four choices are not accidental. Each one may help us understand different patterns of identity formation given the different social, political, and historical circumstances in these settings