Culture, Personality, and the Multiplicity of Identity: Evidence from North African Life Narratives

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Abstract

This article investigates identity in two autobiographies and two life-history interviews from North Africa. The autobiographies show the centrality of "key" self-representational symbols which the authors selectively draw from their cultural lexicon but invest with idiosyncratic affective meanings. The life narratives show how the "structured ambiguity" of self-symbols allows them to be reconfigured to articulate contrasting identities, among which the narrators shift. Generative models of musical cognition describe crucial features of this multiplicity. Against both modernist and postmodernist views of culture and self, narrative data argue for a distributed model of culture and for a theory of multiple identities integrated by "key" cultural symbols.

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