The author revisits the work of a research team on which she served in the early 1990s to show why researchers have difficulty recognizing that social identities are not only heterologo U.S. (referring to different objects), but also heteromorphic (formed in different ways). While activists have eventually convinced researchers that sexuality has many different contexts and meanings, most health educators apply this insight by simply increasing the number of contents possible in an identity still thought in ego-psychology terms, that is, as the integration of self-esteem, values, and a realistic assessment of behavior. The team on which the author served recognized “identity” as a combination of identification with and disidentification from various possible labels, and viewed identity as conflicted and as discursively inter-relating the “self” and institutional structures. Nevertheless, this insight could not get analytic purchase in the context of a large, positivistic contract research team. The author identifies three cases in which the dominant research conceptualizations of identity and behavior misread the situations the team was uncovering.
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