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To Be Who I Am

An Issues Case on Identity and the Body


Author(s)

Deborah Engelen-Eigles
Department of Sociology / Women and Gender Studies
Century College
debbie.engelen@century.edu

Abstract

This case examines a rare condition known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder, in which an individual has a persistent and consuming desire to become an amputee. Students apply Charles Horton Cooley’s theory of the "looking-glass self" to explore factors that play a role in the creation of identity and self-concept. They further compare and critique cultural attributions of deviance to different forms of body modification and explore the apparent contradictions inherent in a desire condemned as deviant by society, yet expressed in terms of values widely promoted by that society. The case is appropriate for introductory sociology courses as well as upper division and/or topics courses in social psychology, deviance, medical ethics, research methods, and disability studies.


Objectives

  • Expose students to a sociological phenomenon with which they are likely unfamiliar.
  • Explore factors that play a role in the creation of identity and self-concept.
  • Develop capacity for empathetic understanding (Weber’s verstehen) as a basis for a more nuanced study of social phenomena.
  • Compare and critique cultural attributions of deviance to different forms of body modification.
  • Identify how the social forces discussed (attributions of deviance, identity and self-concept, empathetic understanding, larger societal values) shape, and play out in, the lives of students.

Keywords

Identity; amputee; amputee identity disorder; body modification; cosmetic surgery; deviance; socialization; body image; self concept

Topical Areas

Social issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues), Discussion

Language

English

Subject Headings

Sociology  |   Psychology  |  


Date Posted

05/02/08

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