Mark B. Tappan
Colby College, Waterville (ME), USA

E-mail: mbtappan@colby.edu
Website: http://www.colby.edu/personal/mbtappan/index.html

 

MORAL IDENTITY, 'INTERNALIZED OPPRESSION', AND THE DIALOGICAL SELF:
THE POLITICS OF 'IDEOLOGICAL BECOMING'

 

In this presentation I argue that recent work on narrative psychology and the dialogical self has not paid sufficient attention to the role that social, cultural, and institutional structures of power, privilege, and oppression play in the development of identity, particularly moral identity. Using the autobiography of Malcolm X (an African-American civil rights leader) as an illustrative example, I outline a 'mediated action' approach to understanding moral identity development. Such an approach focuses on the semiotic 'tools' and 'resources', appropriated from the social world, that shape and mediate one's view of oneself as a moral person. It also highlights the importance of understanding the ways in which dimensions of power, privilege, and authority are necessarily implicated in any given instance of mediated action, particularly in the moral domain. I conclude, therefore, that the development of moral identity entails a process of what Mikhail Bakhtin calls 'ideological becoming', whereby one selectively appropriates the words, language, and forms of discourse of others with whom one is in dialogue, and in-so-doing engages in what is fundamentally a political struggle to strike a balance between 'authoritative' and 'internally persuasive' forms of discourse.