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Identity Configurations: A New Perspective on Identity Formation in Contemporary Society


  • Elli P. Schachter, School of Education, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.

  • This study was carried out under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and was supported in part by a grant from the university's Levi Eshkol Institute for Economic, Social and Political Research. The author would like to thank Zev Klein for his thoughtful guidance throughout the study and Yisrael Rich for his comments on a previous draft of this paper.

concerning this article should be addressed to Elli Schachter, School of Education, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, 52900, Israel. E-mail:


Abstract This paper deals with the theoretical construct of “identity configuration.” It portrays the different possible ways in which individuals configure the relationship among potentially conflicting identifications in the process of identity formation. In order to explicate these configurations, I analyzed narratives of identity development retold by individuals describing personal identity conflicts that arise within a larger context of sociocultural conflict. Thirty Jewish modern orthodox young adults were interviewed regarding a potentially conflictual identity issue (i.e. their religious and sexual development). Their deliberations, as described in the interviews, were examined, and four different configurations were identified: a configuration based on choice and suppression; an assimilative and synthesizing configuration; a confederacy of identifications; and a configuration based on the thrill of dissonance. The different configurations are illustrated through exemplars, and the possible implications of the concept of “configuration” for identity theory are discussed.

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