Our world is an increasingly unstable place, but current changes offer new opportunities as well as new challenges. This key volume provides an accessible exploration of identity as a contemporary concern in everyday life and as a key concept in social science. Drawing on work from a range of disciplines and focusing on the key social divisions of gender, class and nation, it shows how these challenges and opportunities work out in practice. What is really happening when people either individually or in groups identify with particular definitions of themselves or strike out to take up new identities? Do gender, class and ethnicity offer some stability and even certainty about who we are, or are they to be seen as limitations on our freedom to choose our own identities? Are we in the end bound by the social constraints and inequalities with which we started out? This key text is essential reading for all students starting out in the social sciences and for anyone with an interest in the dilemmas of identity-making in contemporary society.