Competing identity standards and managing identity verification

Jessie K. Finch, Robin Stryker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Using courtroom observations, in-depth interviews, and third-party media accounts, we examine identity management by lawyers facing challenges to verification of prominent role and social identities implicated by participation in Operation Streamline. A controversial criminal procedure in which undocumented border crossers are processed en masse, Operation Streamline provides a strategic case for theory building integrating internal and external role and social identity processes. Relying on systematic interpretative methods to refract non-laboratory data through the conceptual lens of identity theory, we found that defense attorneys participating in Operation Streamline experienced substantial role strain, that is, felt problems in meeting role expectations, because theywere torn between role-related values of substantive justice and formal legality that could not be satisfied simultaneously. However, they also perceived these two values to provide culturally available and positive but competing role identity standards to draw from as resources to deflect potential non-verification of their professional identities. Latino/a lawyers-who faced intensified professional role strain and also conflict between a role identity standard of formal legality and meanings and expectations associated with their racial/ethnic identity-perceived culturally available, competing social identity group standards based on race/ethnicity and citizenship. Faced with challenges to positive identity confirmation, attorneys pushed back against role and social identity group standards whose adoption would lead to non-verification and adopted instead the competing standards facilitating verification. Based on our findings and conceptual scope conditions pertaining to our empirical case, we propose three theoretical propositions that may link internal, perceptual control and external, social structural identity processes and can be tested in further research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIdentity and Symbolic Interaction
Subtitle of host publicationDeepening Foundations, Building Bridges
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9783030412319
ISBN (Print)9783030412302
StatePublished - Apr 22 2020


  • Citizenship
  • Cognition
  • Commitment
  • Competing identity standards
  • Cultural sociology
  • Emotion
  • Formal legality
  • Group identity
  • Identity challenge
  • Identity change
  • Identity control
  • Identity dispersion
  • Identity management
  • Identity prominence
  • Identity salience
  • Identity standard
  • Identity theory
  • Identity verification
  • Immigration
  • Law
  • Lawyer
  • Legal resources
  • Multiple identities
  • Non-verification
  • Operation Streamline
  • Perceptual control
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • Reflected appraisal
  • Role conflict
  • Role extension
  • Role identity
  • Role strain
  • Self
  • Social boundary construction
  • Social identity
  • Social structure
  • Substantive justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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