Review Essay: Inside the Ghost Train of Collective Identity. Lutz Niethammer's Criticism of the Concept's Boom


  • Dietmar Rost Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen



collective identity, personal identity, theory, history of a concept, identity politics, interdisciplinary approach


NIETHAMMER offers an extensive, very critical, multifaceted and stimulating view on the successful history of the concept of identity. First, he indicates some early traces of that concept in the work of some outstanding intellectuals from the beginning of the 20th century. Since these early traces are already about collective identity, NIETHAMMER denies the common view, that after World War II, the concept of collective identity was developed from that of personal identity. Even in early manifestations of collective identity, the concept was situated in very different contexts. He regards identity as a "plastic word"—rich in connotations that cover more than it grasps. Because of that reason, (and backed by his analysis of the recent boom in the concept's usage), NIETHAMMER sharply criticizes collective identity as a notion that he would prefer to see abandoned. His strong criticism, however, doesn't fully apply to all variations of collective identity that he mentions. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0302476


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Author Biography

Dietmar Rost, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen

Dietmar ROST ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Lehrstuhl für Allgemeine Soziologie der Universität Potsdam im von der Volkswagen-Stiftung geförderten Forschungsprojekt "Neue regionale Identitäten und strategischer Essentialismus". Zuvor qualitative Forschung zur Konstruktion, lokaler, regionaler und nationaler Identitäten in Sardinien.



How to Cite

Rost, D. (2003). Review Essay: Inside the Ghost Train of Collective Identity. Lutz Niethammer’s Criticism of the Concept’s Boom. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 4(2).