Our project (click to see the Powerpoint presentation) was inspired by the Part Asian, 100% Hapa book that the students looked at in class. The format of our project in Rutgers Identity is very much like the Hapa book in that it provides pictures of Rutgers students and it has them talk about their identity in a very free, unstructured way. It is very different from the Hapa book in that the only thing our subjects have in common is that they attend Rutgers. Besides that, their identities vary greatly. We believe this speaks for the tremendous diversity that exists at our university, and also the complexities that exist in identity itself.
Our process involved the use of a questionnaire to compile data, photographs, and the work of creating the book. Vera and I worked on developing the questionnaire together, which was a very interesting experience. I have background in this topic because of my Journalism major so I had some ideas about how to structure it to get the best results. We also included a space for the participants to give informed consent that we use their answers and picture in our project. I took all the portraits of the people and Vera printed them out. It was worth the effort in the end, because we compiled a great book with all the information.
Our results support Holliday’s findings that identity is informed by “multiple, shifting realities”, and “layering and compartmentalization”. People spoke about their different complex backgrounds as well as their current identity markers. People cited different factors of their identity as being most important from sexual orientation to family history. Another side of our results was the answers to our questions about Rutgers Identity, whether it exists and what it is made of. It came out even as to whether there is a specific Rutgers Identity. Many people felt that we are too diverse a school to have that, but then other felt that our diversity is what makes our identity. Some other things that were seen as common to all Rutgers students were school spirit, the desire for an inexpensive but good-quality education, being from New Jersey, and openness to meet people of different backgrounds.
It is clear that identity cannot be founded on just one aspect of personhood, such as nation; instead it is comprised of various and shifting realities. We think, especially as students, people at Rutgers are still crafting their identities and trying to understand themselves. This project would have been very different if we had interviewed middle-aged professors or recent immigrants, but even so our findings are telling in that each response is different and offers a different story about identity.