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Navigating Multiple IdentitiesRace, Gender, Culture, Nationality, and Roles$
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Ruthellen Josselson and Michele Harway

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199732074

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199732074.001.0001

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The “We of Me”

The “We of Me”

Barack Obama’s Search for Identity

(p.39) 3 The “We of Me”
Navigating Multiple Identities

Ruthellen Josselson

Oxford University Press

A detailed reading of Obama’s autobiographical Dreams from my Father is conducted to illuminate psychological understanding of the challenges of multiple identity, challenges that occur at both deeply emotional as well as cognitive levels of experience. The aim is to extend conceptualization of the space between psychic reality and socially constructed discourses. This chapter assesses the various impacts of internal psychological forces and social pressures and considers how they interrelate. One’s sense of identity may have different meanings as the context of relationality changes, and the change in context can modify internal, felt awareness of who one “is.” Writing retrospectively in his early thirties, Obama details the interconnection between his internal psychic reality, rooted in relationships of love, and the various social constructions of raciality that he encountered. My psychological analysis posits that Obama writes from a stance of a subjective, nonracialized self about his creation of a personal racial identity. Concepts of intersubjectivity, identificatory love, and “overinclusiveness,” drawn from relational psychoanalysis as well as Erikson’s writings on identity, are utilized to theorize how discontinuous self-organizations may be held in dialectical tension. This chapter argues for the need to conceptualize identity in dynamic terms, as a structure or structures that hold together multiple versions of the internal and the discursive.

Keywords:   identity, multiracial, intersubjective, Obama, overinclusiveness, dialogical self, Dreams from my Father

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