To answer this question, it is important to first understand what is meant by identity. Identity concerns both self-identity and social identity. It is best understood not as an entity but as an emotionally charged description of ourselves. It is about the personal and the social as well as about us and the relations of others. It has been argued that identity is wholly cultural in character and does not exist outside of its representation in cultural discourse. Identity is ultimately not a fixed ‘thing’ but a becoming. As Hall (1990, 1996a) pointed out, it is a strategic ‘cut’ or temporary stabilization in language and practice. For the purpose of this essay, I will only concern myself with ethnicity, race and nationality as forms of cultural identity. This is also because cultural identity is a strong theme in contemporary sociology and in my opinion a major social issue in the world today.
It is disputed that identity became of more interest to anthropologists with the emergence of modern concerns with ethnicity and social movements especially in the 1970s. An example of a social movement in the 1970s was in Great Britain. A remarkable element of the British experience at that time was the unique event of the formation of an inclusive notion of blackness configured as the political color of opposition to racism. This was closely connected to black socialist movements which in one way or another opposed a preoccupation with ethnicity and ethnic politics (Bourne, 1980; Mullar, 1982). Major works in identity from Stuart Hall, Edward Said, Benedict Anderson, etc. only emerged after the 1960s. The fundamental questions of identity came into scrutiny arguably after the end of colonial period. The former coloni...
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...e contemporary societies occupy a range of identities at different times, while often harboring contradictory allegiances within a social context that is relentlessly mutating. As Hall put is well, the unified, completed, secure and coherent identity is a fantasy. (Hall, 1992)
New identities are produced in part through a productive tension between global and local influences. In today’s world, we are dealing with new ethnicities and the concept of hybridity. The globalized world has created a complex landscape of alterations and contestation of diverse identities in comparison to the classical eras of the Marx’s, the Weber’s and the Durkheim’s. Identities are never complete, never finished; and that they are always as subjectivity is, in process. Identity is always in the process of formation. Identity means, or connotes, the process of identification (Hall, 1991).
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