Understanding Discursive Identity and Eliminating Prejudice in ESL Settings


Cahyati, Mira N., Muhammad Riif’at N. K., Riska Azizah H., Yadi S.

Prejudice can be defined as the act of forming an opinion without the relevant facts. It often refers to preconceived, typically unfavorable, judgments towards individuals based on their gender, beliefs, values, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, language, criminality, or other personal characteristics. Green (2018) describes prejudice as a negative attitude and feeling towards an individual based solely on their membership in a particular social group. Unfortunately, we experienced prejudice at Siliwangi State University, specifically in the English Education Department. Our peers judged us based on our facial expressions, gestures, and whether or not we smiled. To address this issue, we need to get to know each other on a deeper level and build strong relationships to eliminate any preconceived biases.

Discursive identity refers to one's identity as interpreted and defined by the choices of discourse employed to recognize an individual during moment-to-moment social interaction. According to Gee (2000), D-identities become identities because other people treat, talk about, and interact with the person in ways that bring forth and reinforce their traits. An individual's traits, such as being enthusiastic, are not something they are born with but are shaped by how others perceive and interact with them. Therefore, discursive identity is the identity we build as observed by others during moment-to-moment interaction.

Misinterpreting someone's identity often occurs when people judge others without evidence and fail to respect them. Unfortunately, negative feelings towards others can arise even if we do not know them well. To address this issue, we must understand the concept of discursive identity, which implies that shaping someone's identity occurs through observing their characteristics during moment-to-moment interaction, not by making judgments based on a brief encounter. As the proverb goes, "don't judge a book by its cover," we should not prejudice others without knowing who they truly are.


Gee, J. P. (2000). Identity as an Analytic Lens for Research in Education. Review of Research in Education, 25, 99. https://doi.org/10.2307/1167322

Green, B. A. (2018). Corpora in Language Learning. The TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching, 1–9.

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