Ideology and agency in ethnic identity negotiation of immigrant youth

  • Joshua M. Phelps University of Oslo
  • Marjan Nadim Institute for Social Research, Oslo


Gerard Duveen's conceptualization of the relationship between social identity and social representations invites empirical investigation concerning the interrelated aspects of being identified and making identifications. In the present paper we compare two empirical studies of ethnic minority identity development at different levels. Study 1 assesses macro-level ideological boundary developments through an examination of changing majority-minority representations in public discourse, while Study 2 analyzes the meso-level through identity negotiation and positioning in focus group discussions among immigrant youth in Oslo. Convergent findings between the two studies challenge the imperative/contractual dichotomy which Duveen and others have used to illustrate how social representations impose different kinds of obligations upon social identities. Our analysis suggests that the particular relationship between ethnic identity and social representation should be modified in order to better understand agency within ideological constraint and agency in the form of resistance.

Author Biographies

Joshua M. Phelps, University of Oslo

JOSHUA M. PHELPS is a doctoral candidate in social psychology at the University of Oslo, Norway. His current research involves developing innovative ways to understand and measure how globalization, migration, and interrelated diversity ideologies have changed and are changing group boundaries, identities, and integration attitudes. Other interests include dialogism, language, and the history of social psychology.

Marjan Nadim, Institute for Social Research, Oslo

MARJAN NADIM is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at Institute for Social Research, Oslo, Norway. Her current research explores economic practices and rationalities in different immigrant households, with a special interest in studying the negotiation of work and family obligations. Among her research interests are also issues related to gender, identity and social representations.