This special issue of Literary Cultures explores questions of identity by engaging with literary texts from multiple locations and periods. Identity is difficult to define; for some, it might be a point of pride, something that’s preserved from generation to generation. For others, rebelling against conventions of identity is necessary and, even in liberal society, this is often a point of conflict. In contexts where communities or individuals face oppression, however, identity has further resonances. In cultures that have been stripped of autonomy, forced into diaspora or otherwise persecuted, identity can be seen as a vital resource, an anchor to a heritage unwillingly left behind. In contexts such as slavery and indentured labour, individuals and communities are separated forcibly from markers of their identity: language, culture, tradition.