Part 5

Identity
Debating Identity 5.1
•

Identities: “They define who somebody is in terms of a trait, such as a physical
feature of the b...
•

“Individuals don’t have a single identity, they have identities, and they do so just
because identities are based on pa...
• Identity politics: “A politics engaged on behalf of those with
particular identities (usually historically disempowered ...
•

“The women’s movement was enabled by a series of economic and
technological developments: relative affluence, new devic...
•

“The meaning and force of all identities are in constant mutation. Identities are not
just given or chosen, they have t...
Multiculturalism 5.2
•

Multiculturalism: The idea “that several different cultures (rather than one
national culture) can...
• “Multiculturalism is much weaker in the peripheries
of the developed world.” Ex. an advanced industrial
state such as Ja...
•

“The primary point of multiculturalism is to grant full citizenship to those of
different cultures.”

•

“And culture b...
•

“ It can be a means of managing not just mono-culturalism but also
racism:”

-

“Multiculturalism closes down on differ...
• Cultural Diversity: is a more appropriate term than multiculturalism
and can mean the same thing. “ Multiculturalism imp...
Race 5.3
•

“Race differs from concepts such as gender, class and even ethnicity in that there
is a question as to whether...
3- “Racism is difficult to uproot since it is based on look-the visual differences
between different groups of people.”
4-...
•

Theory of Evolution or Darwinism: A theory by Charles Darwin published in 1859.
“Darwinism allowed society and politics...
•

“Racist imagery of this kind regards individuals not so much as individuals as such
or even as belonging to other colle...
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Part 5 identity

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These slides are intended for level 4 cultural studies students at COLT in PNU KSA

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Part 5 identity

  1. 1. Part 5 Identity
  2. 2. Debating Identity 5.1 • Identities: “They define who somebody is in terms of a trait, such as a physical feature of the body, a belief, a genealogy or a cultural preference.” • “They identify by placing individuals into groups who share that trait.” • “This has a consequence: it means that identity is won at the price of reducing individuality.” • “Identities are not given in terms of what individuals are as a whole, but in terms of more or less arbitrarily selected features that they possess.” • “Individuals have little power to choose what features will be used to identify themthese are determined socially, from the outside.” • “They anchor who you are to only part of yourself.” • “Individuals exist socially in and through their identities. Societies, identities and individuals do not exist independently of one another.”
  3. 3. • “Individuals don’t have a single identity, they have identities, and they do so just because identities are based on partial traits (skin color, socio-economic status, gender, nationality, region, profession, generation and so on).” • “Not all identities carry equal weight in particular circumstances or have the same social consequences. Gender, race or ethnicity, and class are the identities, most of all, by which we are placed socially.” • “Quite often, words used by others to define a group insultingly or prejudicially are appropriated by the group themselves and turned into a term marking self-identity, usually after passing through a brief phase where they are used ironically: hippie, punk, nigger.” • “Significant numbers of people struggle to ‘dis-identify’ from-detach themselves from-given identities (we can have an identity based on dis-identification).” • “It is important to distinguish between given or inherited identities (a woman) and chosen identities, many of which are based on cultural, material or ideological choices or preferences (a waiter, an opera fan).”
  4. 4. • Identity politics: “A politics engaged on behalf of those with particular identities (usually historically disempowered ones) rather than a political one, organized on the basis of particular social policies or philosophies.” • The origins of identity politics: “They begin with the civil rights movement in the USA during the early sixties, after which groups with specific cultural and social identities increasingly made political claims on the basis of those identities-in particular, African Americans on behalf of their racially defined community and feminists on behalf of women.” • “Identity politics are fuelled by the desire for ‘recognition’ (the street word for which is ‘respect’), but in most cases they have also been motivated by more than that- by the desire for access, liberty and fair, unprejudiced treatment.”
  5. 5. • “The women’s movement was enabled by a series of economic and technological developments: relative affluence, new devices for washing, cleaning, cooking and so on, all of which gradually shifted the balance of power between genders in everyday life.” • “And as we have seen, the culture and media industries themselves accelerate segmentation and identity formation by quickly targeting particular identities as specific, de-limited consumer markets.” • Difficulties with Identity politics: 1- “Tends to erase internal differences.” ex. Feminism has an effect on women of different classes and ethnicities. 2- “Tends to work by the principle of exclusion. Identities tend to be structured by reducing or demonizing others (the concept of the White was largely based on vilifying groups with other skin colors).” 3- “Tends to overlook identities around which lives are actually lived. One of the more important identities that individuals have is determined by the paid work they do.” 4- “Tends to invest legitimating histories or traditions which can be politically (then commercially) exploited. National identities are the most obvious instance of this. Ex. The Scottish ‘tartan’ and ‘kilt’ as an important signifier of national identity.”
  6. 6. • “The meaning and force of all identities are in constant mutation. Identities are not just given or chosen, they have to be enacted, but this means that they have to enter into negotiations with the situation in which they are performed or otherwise acted upon.” • Subaltern: “Refers to those social groups with the least power of all, especially colonized peoples. Under colonialism, the identity of subaltern groups is articulated in signifying practices that imitate and displace concepts that have been articulated by the colonizer.” • “Groups and individuals do not have a single identity but several.” • “It is impossible to exist in society without a proper name, without being located within the set of identity-granting institutions into which one is born: family or kingroup, nation, ethnic community, gender.” • “There is no getting away from identities-even being a cultural studies student or teacher forms one.”
  7. 7. Multiculturalism 5.2 • Multiculturalism: The idea “that several different cultures (rather than one national culture) can coexist peacefully and equitably in a single country.” • “ Multiculturalism in the US tends to mean something rather different than it does in Europe or Australia: it is somewhat less connected to issues of immigration and more focused on accepting blacks and Hispanics.” • Multiculturalism prevents threatens: 1- “A return to cultural barbarism through a lowering of standards or a debasement of values” 2- Small-minded forces. “under particular policies designed to enable the survival of minority cultures, limits to individual freedom may be imposed.” ex. “The law in Quebec, Canada, requiring all firms of over fifty employees to conduct business in French.” 3- National unity. “Multiculturalism will lead to a (division) of languages, religions and cultures within the nation. (This unravels) the binding threads required for national unity.” • “The idea that multiculturalism equals barbarism is odd. Multiculturalist policies are features precisely of the most developed states.”
  8. 8. • “Multiculturalism is much weaker in the peripheries of the developed world.” Ex. an advanced industrial state such as Japan barely accommodates it, retaining an official monotheism which downgrades the lives of migrants.” • “Almost all nations are, and always have been, multicultural in the sense that they contain a multitude of cultures and usually of languages and dialects.” • “All modern societies do not just tolerate, but are built around, meanings and values that are not shared by all members.”
  9. 9. • “The primary point of multiculturalism is to grant full citizenship to those of different cultures.” • “And culture becomes important in this context because citizenship is not just a matter of holding a passport. It also consists of the capacity to contribute one’s heritage, looks and beliefs to the national identity.” • - Official multiculturalism emerged out of: “Difficulties faced by European politicians when they divided central Europe into new states after WW1.” “Many nations-from Germany to the USA- denaturalized ethnic groups or migrants, often condemning them to statelessness.” This caused violence. “After WW2, policies of denaturalization were eliminated.” “Official multiculturalism was spurred on by large-scale immigration in and after the fifties when improved and cheaper global communications allowed migrant communities to stay in touch with their home states and maintain their old cultural interests and dispositions.” “So to some degree multiculturalism is a consequence of globalization.” - • “On one level multiculturalism is a governmental tool for managing difference.”
  10. 10. • “ It can be a means of managing not just mono-culturalism but also racism:” - “Multiculturalism closes down on differences within particular cultural groups. That is, it does not provide sufficient room for identity-indifference.” - “Multiculturalism tends to propose cultural solutions for political problems, by emphasizing recognition and freedom of expression rather than power and economic equality.” “States promote multiculturalism to exhibit their tolerance rather than to promote differences.” Ex. Ethnic restaurants and festivals. - “In aiming to market to different communities, corporations will incorporate personal values connected to those communities. Urban governments have promoted cultural diversity in order to make their cities attractive to globally mobile companies and highly skilled labor.” • “Each multiculture contains a variety of perspectives and values, some in conflict with others, and some (are transferable) onto other multicultures.” Ex. A conservative Muslim father and a conservative Christian father who share the same concerns for their daughters. “Individuals can belong simultaneously to different multicultures and engage in activities which are not covered by any ‘culture’ at all.” •
  11. 11. • Cultural Diversity: is a more appropriate term than multiculturalism and can mean the same thing. “ Multiculturalism implies a bounded border within which different cultures co-exist.” • “Multiculturalism may require different groups of citizens to be treated differently.” Ex. Muslim women be allowed to wear the Hijab in schools. “These issues become more difficult when customs come into question.” • “When cultural traditions don’t respect human rights as these have come to be understood in the West and by the major international organizations, should universal rights override cultural rights?” - Nations do not require common cultures and common religions anymore. - They do not require common laws. In some countries the laws of the native peoples are applied and are upheld for different circumstances. - Nations do not require a common language. “Very few states have ever been monolingual, and bilingualism or multilingualism” go together.
  12. 12. Race 5.3 • “Race differs from concepts such as gender, class and even ethnicity in that there is a question as to whether it is real at all.” • “Race, it seems, is nothing but a dangerous product of prejudice or, at least, of false thinking.” • “Racism is, at its heart, the belief that the human species is constituted by a number of separate and distinct biological discrete sub-species: i.e. races.” It is “difficult to decide how many races actually existed. • “yet race as a category refuses to disappear. There are several main reasons for this:” 1- “It can return to its pre-scientific roots.” “Races consist less of people joined by deep-seated biological traits than by the sharing of particular kinds of personalities, values and dispositions, bound to particular body types, often marked by skin color. That kind of racism can create hierarchies and build apparatuses of oppression and discrimination.” 2- “It is often difficult to disjoin culturalism (that idea that different peoples have different inherited cultures) from a racist node, since different cultures so often implies different kind of people with different kind of bodies.”
  13. 13. 3- “Racism is difficult to uproot since it is based on look-the visual differences between different groups of people.” 4- “Race is experienced as such by many on a daily basis, although not by the samerace majorities in most communities.” “For example, travelling to china can be such a powerful experience for Europeans: there they can understand what it is like to be a member of a group with a different body type.” • “At one level the only way to avoid racism is simply to stop using racist concepts. This would require removing the markers of race, and in particular that of skin color, from discourses about social groups and individuals so that these markers become as meaningless a criterion for distinguishing between people as, say, shoe size.” • This is highly unlikely though. “Just because culture and society are still too organized around them; experience too is filtered through them.” • • The history of Western racism: The concept of the volk community: a theory by J. G. Herder during the late 18th century. “A community distinguished by its authenticity and bound together by a cultural tradition-by values, myths, languages and a spectrum of character types and capabilities unique to it.”
  14. 14. • Theory of Evolution or Darwinism: A theory by Charles Darwin published in 1859. “Darwinism allowed society and politics to be understood not as the outcome of human choices (under the sway of particular interests) but as subject to invariable, determining biological laws, and, in particular, the laws that ordered the transmission of inherited traits across populations.” • “This was the basis of what has come to be known as ‘scientific racism’.” • Scientific racism “became such a powerful idea because it fulfilled particular ideological needs in the age of imperialism, and most all because it helped legitimate the domination of the globe by white.” • “It is as if once all human beings were deemed equal, systemic inequality could only be maintained by declaring some kind of people less than fully human-and racism could do that.” • “Today, as we know, racism works purely ideologically. Inside a shared culture, in most cases it works by distinguishing other people by virtue of their race.” • “Racism organizes certain stereotypes: races are regarded as groups of similar individuals who possess a narrow set of traits, usually, but not necessarily, negative traits. Notions such as ‘Asians are brainy’ or ‘Indians are lazy’.”
  15. 15. • “Racist imagery of this kind regards individuals not so much as individuals as such or even as belonging to other collectivities (to localities or classes say) but primarily as members and representatives of a race imagined as a bundle of stereotypes and dispositions.” • “The primary difficulty with the concept of race today is that it is so tightly connected to that of ethnicity.” • Ethnicity: “Relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background Ethnicity is what ties you to your race or culture. It is your background and has a strong influence on the things you do.” • “Race is a biological notion while ethnicity is a cultural one. Yet ethnicity is very connected to filiation and blood: people of the same ethnicity share not just cultures but a network of family relations, roots, and a connection to a particular home territory.” • “If race mediates between society and nature, ethnicity mediates between race and culture.” • “Globalised societies and cultures are finding more and more ways to use race: as a niche for marketing; as a source of commodifiable, imaginary representations which can energize popular cultures; and as a source of identity pride especially for the marginalized and unprivileged.”

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