Multiple Identities as Viewed by Eriksonian Theory and its Critics: A Psychological Perspective with Relevance to Contemporary Jewish Education
Source: International Journal of Jewish Education Research (IJJER), 2013 (5-6), 71-90
The purpose of this paper is to briefly discuss the scholarly debate taking place within the field of psychology, especially within developmental psychology surrounding Erik Erikson's identity theory, concerning the issue of multiple identities. This debate has also been referred to as the "modern vs. postmodern identity structure debate" (see Schachter, 2005a, 2005b). After outlining the debate in the first part of the paper, I will offer a few suggestions in the second part of the paper as to how it might be relevant to the field of Jewish education.
My premise is that although originating in a field far from Jewish education, Erikson's theory, and the debate it evoked, can nevertheless provide conceptual tools that enable us to engage with issues relevant to Jewish education in greater depth. These tools can help Jewish educators clarify and examine some of their assumptions regarding multiple identities and perhaps even open up new educational options. This, however, entails applying such conceptual tools carefully and reflectively, for reasons I will discuss shortly. However, I mention this point at the outset in order to make clear that my purpose in this paper is not to set out a programmatic plan for dealing with issues of multiple identities in Jewish educational settings based on insights and principles gleaned from psychological theory and empirical research. Rather, it is to bring psychological theory as one more perspective with which to inform ongoing debates within Jewish educational circles and, through this, to raise certain questions and suggestions for Jewish educators who wish to apply theoretical concepts to their work.