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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 .

Identity and Affect: Experiences of identity and a globalising world
Edited by John R. Campbell and Alan Rew

(London: Pluto Press, 1999)
306pp. Index. Bibl. ISBN 0-7453-1428-7. Pb. ISBN 0-7453-1423-6.

The main premise of Identity and Affect is that it draws its direction from the works of A. L. (Bill) Epstein, a pioneer in use of social constructivism in anthropological ethnographic studies. According to the editors, one of the primary ways that identity formation in post modern contexts needs to be studied is in its emotional affect, the 'anger, rage, fear, guilt, horror and outrage' which make up the lived experience of identity formation (p. 8). Unfortunately, the contributors, while generally thorough in their presentations of socially-constructed elements, are less clear in their linkages of these elements to the aforementioned emotional affects.

The introduction and chapters by Michael Young and Alan Rew best illustrate the role of affect in identity formation. Chapters by Stirrat and van Ufford allude to affectual components in their case studies, while others concentrated solely on Barth-esque examinations of social and cultural institutions and their roles in boundary formation and maintenance. One major problem of this work is the authors' and editors' contention that deep ethnographic surveys are the only method which can yield the right kind of data useful for identity research. The result is that - with few exceptions - the results of each survey are so mired in their contexts as to be inapplicable on a larger level. To be fair, some of the fault this reviewer finds undoubtedly stems from my own cross-disciplinary background and understanding of the phenomenon of identity formation. The fact that different disciplines attempt to broaden their understanding of such phenomenon is to be applauded, even if one remains skeptical about a somewhat dogmatic conservatism in theories and methods applied. For students of anthropology looking for well written, concise ethnographic studies of identity construction, this book is a good read. However, for those readers who want a more cross-disciplinary and theoretically viable work on ethnicity or social identity, this reviewer recommends that the reader limit him or herself to the first chapter, or seek out texts with broader disciplinary and methodological backgrounds.

Landon E. Hancock
ICAR, George Mason University

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