Searching for a Self: Identity in Popular Culture, Media and Society

by Arthur Asa Berger (San Francisco State University)

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This well-written book provides an interesting and engaging introduction to different perspectives on ‘identity’. The book’s particular strength is that the author has not tied himself to a particular perspective but offers views and discussions of ‘identity’ from semiotics, sociology, psychoanalysis, and Marxism, followed by 12 chapters in which he applies and brings these theories to life.
The multi-perspective approach to the topic of ‘identity’ is original. I have not seen a book like this before that explores identity from so many different angles. The applications discussed in chapters 6 to 17 are drawn from recent events, such as Trump’s presidency and the insurgence.
The book will be of great interest to Undergraduate and Graduate students looking for a readable entry into discussions about identity. It also might find a readership outside academia as it covers lots of current affairs and events.

Prof. Dr. Dirk vom Lehn
King's Business School
King's College London

Professor Arthur Asa Berger is one of the leading world scientists in semiotics, communication theory and advertising theory.
He has already published many scientific books on these topics in some of the world's leading publishing companies.
His books are translated into many languages - including Chinese, Russian, Spanish, etc.
His books are original, intellectual, highly readable, humorous, dialogical, and illustrated by himself, and these are the reasons for their publishing and academic success.
The book “Searching for a Self. Identity in Popular Culture, Media and Society” is one of his best.
In this, Professor Berger analyses in depth the concept of self from many different standpoints.
The concept of self has been analysed for the first time in the scientific literature from these perspectives.
The texts of the book are readable, and this will definitely help for the market success of the book.
This is a valuable university textbook, and it will be useful for students of many disciplines - linguistics, psychology, sociology, advertising, philosophy, journalism, etc.
I am quite convinced that this book by Professor Berger is very useful for the scientific community and the business, and it will be quite successful on the market.

Prof. Dr. Christo Kaftandjiev

This book is an intellectual work and at the same time easily accessible to every reader. Berger’s unique skill is to link semiotic theory and sociology with our lives in accessible and illustrative ways with storytelling – and through this, to provide us with a different understanding of our everyday existence.
It is a compelling approach to apply semiotic theory to a range of examples that we are all familiar with and that play a role in our lives. This includes the performance of gender, the role of tattoos, the impact of vodka on the Russian psyche, Porsche cult cars, and the marketing of elite universities. Many examples are what we experience every day.

Dr. Brigitte Biehl
Professor for Media and Communication Management, Head of Studies B.A. Creative Industries Management, Head of Studies M.A. International Management „Creative Leadership“, Director of the IWK Institut für Weiterbildung in der Kreativwirtschaft (Institute for Professional Development)
SRH Berlin University of Applied Sciences

How do people turn out the way they do? How do they “arrive” at themselves and attain an identity? How are our identities affected by our birth order, our hair color, how tall or short we are, our intelligence, our occupation, our race, our religion, our nationality, the socio-economic level of our parents (or our being raised in a single-parent family), where we are born and where we grow up, the language we learn, the way we use language, our fashion tastes, our gender, our education, our psychological makeup, chance experiences we have, the people we marry (if we marry), and countless other factors? There are numerous matters to consider when dealing with identity, which, as Nigel Denis, the author of 'Cards of Identity', reminds us, “is the answer to everything.”

'Searching for a Self' takes a deep dive into the question of identity formation from various perspectives; it is written in a reader-friendly accessible style and makes use of insightful quotations from seminal thinkers who have dealt with the topic. Split into two parts, the first “Theories of Identity,” offers evaluations of identity from semioticians, psychologists, sociologists and Marxists while the second, “Applications,” offers case studies on topics such as Russian identity, Donald Trump’s identity, fashion and identity, LGBTQIA+ identity, Orthodox Jewish identity, elite university education and identity, tattoos and identity, travel and identity, and politics and identity. Covering a wide array of subject areas, this book will be a valuable resource for undergraduate students taking courses in identity, sociology, psychology, cultural studies, and other related fields.

List of Illustrations
List of Tables

Preface: Takeaways from Searching For a Self

Part I: Theories of Identity

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Chapter 2 - The Semiotics of Identity

Chapter 3 - Sociological Aspects of Identity

Chapter 4 - Psychology and Identity

Chapter 5 - Marxism and Identity

Part II: Applications

Chapter 6 - Vodka and the Russian Psyche

Chapter 7 - Donald Trump: A Study in Mendacious Irony

Chapter 8 - Fashion and Identity: The Broadway Riders

Chapter 9 - LGBTQIA+ and Gender Identity

Chapter 10 - The Insurrection on January 6 and the Trial of Donald Trump

Chapter 11 - Haredi: Strictly Orthodox Jews

Chapter 12 - Parodies: Problems in Comedic Identity

Chapter 13 - Ivy League and Elite Universities and Branding

Chapter 14 - Tattoos and Dramatized Self

Chapter 15 - Porsches and German Engineering

Chapter 16 - The GOP: Grand Old Party

Chapter 17 - The Politics of Identity and Identity Politics

Chapter 18 - The Seafarer’s Self: Travel, Myth, and Identity

Chapter 19 - Coda

About the Author
Index of Names
Index of Topics

Arthur Asa Berger is Professor Emeritus of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts at San Francisco State University. He is the author of more than one hundred articles and eighty books on media, communication, popular culture, semiotics, humor and tourism. He was a Fulbright Professor at the University of Milan in 1963, Visiting Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California in 1983-84, and has lectured in many foreign universities in countries such as Iran, China, Russia, Germany, France, Argentina, Laos, Mexico, Turkey and England.

See also

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Searching for a Self: Identity in Popular Culture, Media and Society





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


35 B&W

Publication date

March 2022