ow does one’s relationship to power affect the way one understands one’s identity?

Paper 1 Scott: Power and Identity

In “Behind the Official Story,” James C. Scott argues that nearly all social interactions involve some sort of performance or script but that in cases of marked or strong power difference, the stakes involved lead to increasing levels of scriptedness (3).

For your first paper assignment, I would like you to consider how Scott’s argument about how power affects social dynamics might help us to understand identity better. In other words, how does one’s relationship to power affect the way one understands one’s identity?

There are different ways you may choose to go about answering this prompt: do power dynamics challenge or hurt one’s sense of self, reinforce or solidify it, or does it depend? If it depends, what does it depend on? Does one’s place in a power relationship create one’s sense of self, or is there a more complicated dynamic at play? How so and how can we tell? Does one’s sense of belonging to a group defined by relative power (or its lack) affect how one understands oneself and one’s identity? How so and why? To what extent, and are there limits to this? How might Scott’s discussion of theatricality or scripts come into this conversation in a positive or negative way?

To answer this question, you do not want to try to answer all of the above questions. They are merely ways to think about and narrow your focus on the bolded question.

Goals of this assignment:

  1. First, stay away from the five-paragraph essay format taught in high school writing. This is a chance to think through what your own position is and ground that position in textual analysis. Your argument should develop from paragraph to paragraph.
  2. Summarize effectively and succinctly. A good rule of thumb is no more than 2 sentences in a row.
  3. Each body paragraph should begin with a claim and then involve direct evidence (cited quotations) from the reading that supports that claim.
  4. Look for passages that you can analyze. “Good quotes” are relative to your intended use. Textual evidence is used to support, never replace, your ideas.
  5. All papers are to follow MLA format guidelines. MLA is more than just “citation” formatting, but the structure of the entire paper: typed, 1 inch margins on all sides, 12 pt. Times New Roman, double-spacing etc. Consult your handout or me for any questions.
  6. Reminder: You must have 2 hard copies of your rough draft for peer review to be considered present for class.
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