"I just can't be nothin": The role of resistance in the development of identity and purpose

Leoandra Onnie Rogers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Identity is a core developmental task for adolescents as they seek to answer the questions "who am I?" and "who will I become?" (Erikson, 1968). In this way, identity is germane to purpose; it is a compass that guides and directs how individuals engage with the world. For individuals whose identities are marginalized by oppressive stereotypes, a healthy identity and positive sense of purpose requires resistance to society's negative expectations. This chapter draws from in-depth interview data with adolescent Black boys about their racial and gender identities to show three resistance strategies that young people employ to develop a positive sense of identity and purpose in a society defined by inequality and oppression. Acknowledging societal oppression and the role of resistance makes visible the potential of identity and purpose to be transformative-developmental resources that serve to transform and liberate the self and others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Ecology of Purposeful Living Across the Lifespan
Subtitle of host publicationDevelopmental, Educational, and Social Perspectives
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783030520786
ISBN (Print)9783030520779
StatePublished - Aug 19 2020


  • Black boys
  • Identity development
  • Purpose
  • Racial identity
  • Resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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