EXCERPT | Culture and Identity: Exploration of a Relationship

EXCERPT | Culture and Identity: Exploration of a Relationship

By  Dhruv Pande and Munmun Jha
 Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India

EXCERPT | Culture and Identity: Exploration of a Relationship

Image Attribute: Turnip jack o'lanterns, photo by Popeyee via Flckr Creative Commons

The evolution of an identity is accompanied by the evolution of a culture. The cultural factors mold, shape and reshape an identity, which is an explicit and personified expression of a culture. It is a necessary part of human bearing, including the traditions which human beings bear upon themselves and the process of acculturation that assumes significance with respect to the need for reaching a compromise between the old inherent traditions and the newly acquired ones.

Gentile (2012: p. 10)[1] links identity with violence, which for her is “complex”. She further states, “it is necessary for a political theorist to handle these categories cautiously. It is possible to distinguish two key factors: the role of recognition on the one hand, and the idea of private interests and actions on the other”. An identity is affected by the externality of culture at any given point of time and in any given context. The existing political culture of a state, for instance, affects the identity due to its features, say political participation, affecting the behavior of the new immigrants. Identity is modulated at this point of time by a number of factors that shape or remold this newly emerging identity. This leads to a consonance between the two―culture and identity― the complementarities of culture improvising the identity. Thus, emerges a direct relationship between the two. For example, in the context of contemporary India, Defetereos (2013: p. 112) [2] explains: “While the Hindu right-wing within India has since received less favourable political results, the presence of a proto-Hindu nationalist cultural identity or Hindu majoritarian nationalism has not disappeared from the complexities of contemporary Indian political life”.

This leads to a new identity, a reformulated one, which emerges in wake of cultural necessities. This is so because what culture propounds in theory, the identity performs in action. This also marks the beginning of a dialogical relationship between the two; it is “dialogical” in the Taylorian sense of this new identity entering into a dialogue or two-way communication with the new external culture. The effectiveness of this “dialogical relationship” is better understood through these entities i.e. culture and identity, recognizing each other’s newly emerged capacities to interact and create a mutual set of complementarities towards the process of “acculturation” in a multicultural society. An identity becomes dynamic as culture lends it the features which make it durable not only in a particular context, but also across many contexts, making it transcendental. By being integral to culture, identity becomes more vibrant and diverse to ensure its long-term viability. Hence, a culture sustains itself as long as the societal demands find their usefulness with the existence of this particular identity.

Taylor (1989)[3] provides us a political ontology that lays stress on the interactive component of individual identity-formation: In his Quebec example, Taylor does not make an assertion that French-Canadian culture develops and obtains its identity in dialogue with the Anglo-Canadian culture, and vice versa. Rather he implies that any identity-influencing interaction would be an intrusion upon French- Canadian cultural identity. Anglo-Canadian culture is treated as being abrasive to the French-Canadian self-determination.Creating individual identities is a different matter from preserving, protecting, or recognizing already-existing individual identities.

Bringing into focus the larger society, and throwing some light again on the question of multiculturalism and immigration, we see how this dialogical identity is applied to the context of a right to recognition: recognition of a single or multiple identities, in any form existing concretely or in its abstractness. 

According to Carens (1987: p. 251) [4] : Borders should generally be open and that people should normally be free to leave their country of origin and settle in another, subject only to the sorts of constraints that bind current citizens in their new country. The argument is strongest, I believe, when applied to the migration of people from third world countries to those of the first world. 

Carens (2000)[5] also contends that the expectations of immigrants in Quebec are morally defensible in the context of multiculturalism and equal opportunities. Macedo (1999)[6] advocates the recognition of group rights. These perspectives lead us to the liberal thinking of co-existence and how equality can be guaranteed in its basic form and spirit to each and every citizen of a group in a society. However, the question of diversity within a group remains a challenge for the liberals, considering multiple differentiations.

Cite this Article:

Pande, D. and Jha, M. (2016) Cultural Identity and Human Rights: Minority Claims, Ethnic Identity and Group Rights. Open Journal of Political Science, 6, 351-362. doi: 10.4236/ojps.2016.64032.

Endnotes:

[1] Gentile, V. (2012). From Identity-Conflict to Civil Society: Restoring Human Dignity and Pluralism in Deeply Divided Societies. Rome: Luiss University Press.  

[2] Defetereos, C. (2013). Ashis Nandy and the Cultural Politics of Selfhood. New Delhi: Sage Publications. 

[3] Taylor, C. (1989). Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Harvard: Harvard University Press.

[4] Carens, J. H. (1987). Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders. In The Review of Politics (pp. 251-273). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/s0034670500033817

[5] Carens, J. H. (2000). Culture, Citizenship and Community: A Contextual Exploration of Justice as Evenhandedness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198297688.001.0001 

[6] Macedo, S. (1999). Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY 4.0).http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
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