The concept of collective identity has been used extensively by social movement scholars seeking to explain how social movements generate and sustain commitment and cohesion between actors over time. Despite its wide application, collective identity is a notoriously abstract concept. This article focuses on the use of the concept in the literature on contemporary social movements and offers a comprehensive theoretical overview. The central elements of collective identity in the social movement literature are developed, and some key differences in interpretations are highlighted. Finally, some contemporary debates around the continuing usefulness and limitations of the concept of collective identity are explored, with a special emphasis on the challenges of applying the concept to movements that define themselves in terms of heterogeneity, diversity and inclusiveness.
- collective identity
- social movements