Disclosing the Tacit Identity in Majority Cultures

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Bolduc, Josée




In this dissertation, I introduce the notion of tacit group identity as a central element in the identity construction of majority cultures, and as a source of influence in their conception of and interaction with otherness. Indeed, I argue that exploring the tacit identity of majority cultures reveals the presence of unreflective biases and assumptions that translate into normative statements where institutions and official discourse reflect a majority culture back onto itself.

My approach is based on a phenomenological understanding of identity, which highlights the dialogical aspect of identity-construction between the self and its context, and from a societal application of Polanyi's tacit knowledge, which emphasizes the unreflective and contextual elements that contribute to the shaping of one's identity. In establishing the inescapability of a context and its multi-layered influence on individual perspective, I propose a re-conceptualization of agency in identity construction as affected by the tacit aspect of identity and by its context.

I also articulate what a tacit element of group identity looks like through the examples of Québec's attachment to Catholicism and the underlying racism present in the United States. I argue that in both cases, the majority culture's relationship with otherness is influenced by a tacit identity which contradicts the explicit identity and the associated values it officially promotes. I claim that the tacit dimension of identity challenges the view of identity at the root of Western political theories by bringing to question the majority culture's assumptions of universality from which these theories emerge. Thus, not only is this aspect of identity important to better understand tensions between minority and majority cultures, it is also central to evaluate the theories explaining those relationships.


Political Science




Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Doctor of Philosophy: 

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Political Science

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Theses and Dissertations

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