Conscious Identity Performance

41 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2017 Last revised: 30 Oct 2018

See all articles by Leslie Culver

Leslie Culver

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Date Written: July 30, 2017


Marginalized groups in the legal profession sometimes feel pressure to perform strategies to communicate their identity in a predominantly white legal profession. Relevant legal scholarship describes this phenomenon as assimilation, covering, and passing. The notion is that “outsiders” (e.g., women, people of color, LGBTQ) use these strategies to communicate with “insiders” (white heterosexual males) in ways designed to advance their status in the legal profession. This article expands on that scholarship by drawing on a theoretical framework that legal scholars have largely ignored: co-cultural theory. This interdisciplinary theory describes how non-dominant cultures communicate in a dominant society. In particular, the theory catalogs the micro-level communication practices outsiders employ to navigate their workplaces. This article is the first to apply co-cultural theory to legal scholarship. The overarching claim is that conscious identity performance is an indispensable step toward empowerment for outsiders in the legal profession, who might otherwise internalize the insiders’ stereotypes to their detriment.

Keywords: Co-Cultural Theory, Mark Orbe, Muted Group Theory, Standpoint Theory, Marginalized, Outsider, Identity, Covering, Passing, Assimilation, Minorities, Underrepresented

Suggested Citation

Culver, Leslie, Conscious Identity Performance (July 30, 2017). San Diego Law Review, Vol. 55, 2018, California Western School of Law Research Paper No. 17-18, Available at SSRN:

Leslie Culver (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States

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