Identity has been studied from a variety of perspectives and can be understood as relating to our sense of self and the way that our identity characteristics and our understanding of these (our gender or sexuality, for example) are influenced and framed by the sociopolitical structures of the society in which we live. Echoing these understandings of identity as both individual and social, identity theory has demonstrated that being a part of a group is not only important in generating a sense of belonging but that it can also be a source of power. Even for those whose identities have traditionally been marginalised – women, people of colour and sexual minorities, for example – being allied to a group or network can help to overcome the marginalisation which a person experiences and may provide paths to empowerment. Drawing on some of the themes identified in Chapters 1 and 2, this chapter begins by considering how belonging and marginalisation have influenced the development of service user and carer involvement. Building on this discussion it then considers how this process of inclusion and involvement might also serve to homogenise our understandings of what it means to be a service user or a carer, or even an academic or a professional, and how this might at times reinforce processes of inclusion and exclusion by marginalising those whose identities do not easily ‘fit’ within these groups.
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