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Role of Tribes in the Construction of Identity

The sense of belonging is a critical part of an individual’s identity. Therefore, while longing for individualism, people still need to be a part of a broader community. The participation opportunity in question allows them to share knowledge and information, while also comparing their social status to that on of others and, therefore, improving their self-esteem (Hill, 2008). Due to the need for an approval within the context of a social hierarchy, as well as compliance with group norms and traditions in order to ensure participation in key rituals, people follow the concept of tribes in their social life.

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The requirement to meet the standards set within a specific tribe is also linked to several important concepts associated with people’s ability to mimic the established norm. In case of failing to meet certain standards of the tribe naturally, its members or people from the outside try to integrate into the community in question. As a result, they may attempt at developing the skill of passing (Fought, 2006). The specified notion suggests the ability to mimic specific characteristics of the tribe in question and comply with its standards and values so that an individual could be seen as a part of the group even without being as such (Fought, 2006).

In this regard, the notion of selling out should also be addressed as one of the crucial principles associated with tribalism and the willingness to integrate into a certain community successfully. Implying that a group of people previously ostracized within a broader community gives up some elements of their unique identity in order to become better integrated into the community in question is typically referred to as selling out (Fought, 2006). As a rule, the notion of selling out is seen as negative since it incorporates the idea of rejecting a part of one’s individual identity in order to conform to the social norms. For example, Hill (2008) explains that the need to conform and meet the set standards, when set by the dominant culture, often implies racism and suggests that one must hide one’s cultural and ethnic identity and its key markers in order to advance within society (Hill, 2008).

The attempts at hiding one’s ethnic heritage by trying to pass as a white person and, therefore, escape racism could be seen as one of the examples of selling out in the context of tribalism, according to Hill (2008). The specified change takes a tremendous cultural toll on people that prefer to succumb to the demands of a racist society rather than suffer everyday racism and segregation. However, the efforts to mimic the norm appear to be detrimental in their nature. Instead, embracing the concept of multiculturalism and promoting the expansion of the norm must be seen as a healthy alternative.

Sine tribes create a sense of belonging by reinforcing the significance of the marker of social hierarchy and the importance of compliance with set traditions. Thus, building the sense of ethnicity based on specific cultural knowledge and prerequisites, they are central to one’s sense of belonging. Consequently, the excessive focus on tribalism is likely to lead to instances of discrimination against those that fail to meet the established standards, especially if these standards in some way involve particular physical characteristics, such as the tone of skin or the presence of specific traits defined as masculine or feminine. By questioning the specified standards, one will be able to encourage the development of inclusivity within the global community.


Fought, C. (2006). Language and ethnicity. Cambridge University Press.

Hill, J. H. (2008). The everyday language of white racism. Wiley.

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