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The Political Psychology of Personal Narrative: The Case of Barack Obama

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Guided by theories of narrative identity, racial identity development, and Freire's (1970) notion of conscientizaĆ§Ć£o, this paper presents an interpretive analysis of Barack Obama's personal narrative. Obama's narrative represents a progressive story of self-discovery in which he seeks to develop a configuration of identity ( Erikson, 1959 ; Schachter, 2004 ) that reconciles his disparate contexts of development and the inherited legacy of racism and colonialism. A major theme of his story centers on his quest to discover an anchor for his identity in some community of shared practice. Ultimately, he settles on a distinctly cosmopolitan identity in which he can foster conversation across axes of difference both within himself and among diverse communities. I discuss the extent to which election of a candidate with this personal narrative of cosmopolitan identity reflects a shifting master narrative of identity politics within the United States, as well as implications for Obama's policy platform and governance style.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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