Identity and its defining characteristics have long been the center of debates and arguments among social sciences, psychologists and among scholars who deals with cultural studies. As defined by Wren (2001), identities are narratives, not things. Like other narratives, identities are fashioned in discourse, and hence “in specific historical and institutional sites within specific discursive formations and practices, by specific pronounced strategies”. Woodward (2007) wrote that, “Identities are forged through the marking of difference”.
When we speak of cultural identity, it means that an individual is influenced by due to his or her belongingness in a certain group or culture. The concept of cultural identity would actively places a person to a certain sub-population of a broader culture. To illustrate this, term such as Inuits, the Maori and the Swedes, etc. were used to describe a specific group of individuals in the anthropological level. Furthermore, other common terms such as the gays or the deaf, etc, were termed as such to refer to sub groups in a culture due to their social status.
Although different terms were created and used to describe sub groups, this became the rough foundation for the formation of identities. Moreover, this categories and terminologies often had its roots from how people classify people from observed differences and disparities. It is inevitable that culture and identity goes hand in hand, as explained in the former paragraph, the categories placing you under a specific identity is directly influenced by the type of culture an individual is in.
A person therefore to be able to fit the identification of a specific culture, he or she must have through awareness of the practices and the traditions the culture is engaged with, this observance, must go hand in hand with the proper acceptance of this culture. Furthermore, in order to develop a thorough grasp about culture and identity, one must look deeper into the culture’s history. This will then help explain the development of the different identities found in similar cultures and furthermore, an outline on why such development came to be.
Another important thing to look into is the effects of various cultural offshoots to the rise and characters of every civilization. Ethnicity acts as a preference individuals have as a result of social outcomes. There has been a wide consensus among members of the same ethnicity, wherein they agreed that individuals belonging to the same ethnicity as them would consider to be positive, other negative. This therefore clearly illustrates that persons belonging to the same culture and ethnicity possess a form of cultural superiority over other culture and ethnicity at that.
In a study conducted by Tajfel, Billig and Bundy, they argue that this preference came after the identification of the specific group a person belongs to. It may also function by providing a set of institutions or norms allocating the responsibilities that members of a group hold to the other members of that group. If members of an ethnic group have succeeded in solving complex collective action problems, it may be expected that members of that group choose their actions in expectation of future punishments or rewards by other members of their own group.
For such established in-group collective action mechanisms to be sustained, a high degree of information may be required regarding the ethnicity of the players involved. Another hypothesis emphasizes that ethnicity “provides a technology” – a shared language and shared understandings about modes of social interaction – that makes it easier for individuals to coordinate with co-ethnics (Bates 2003).
A third approach focuses on the informal social institutions that ethnic groups provide. These institutions facilitate collective action by promoting the flow of information about reputations, facilitating sanctioning, and generating expectations that cooperative overtures to fellow group members will be reciprocated. Commonly, when people provide “tags” for other individuals, ethnicity serves to facilitate coordination and hence they group people together.
This may, for example, facilitate within-group problem-solving by giving group members convergent expectations and may occur even if there are no preference-based, institutional, or technological reasons why coordination with members of one’s own group is preferential to coordination with members of other groups. In such instances, coordination among co-ethnics may become rational. Ethnic coordination may also have implications for between-group politics through the formation of exclusive coalitions. In contemporary times, society is characterized by diversity.
The populace is comprised of different races, nationalities and ethnical and cultural backgrounds. People from different backgrounds are compelled to co-exist with each other peacefully. According to the Social Report of 2001, one of the indicators of the well-being of our society is the approach we take to the cultural diversity of the population and the value placed on exploring our cultural traditions. The manner in which people are presented through the main avenues for cultural engagement (the media, the cinema, publications, art forms and exhibitions) demonstrates their engagement with diversity and our cultural confidence.
Positive engagement with cultural practice, artistic pursuits and respect for cultural diversity are likewise important aspects of a healthy society. Appropriate conduct in understanding and tolerating the needs of others to celebrate their culture is directly linked to how safe our society feels for its members and is an indicator of whether or not we respect human rights and are free of discrimination. The components of race and ethnicity in the Great Britain are complex and difficult to define and frame.
Concepts of racial identity, in particular, has been misunderstood and contested. Some meanings are derived from its biological dimension and others from its social dimension. In recent times, literary and theoretical manifestations of racial identity are discussed not in biological terms (physical features, gene pools and character qualities), but as a social construction, which “refers to a sense of group or collective identity based on one’s perception that he or she shares a common heritage with a particular racial group” (Spickard, 2002).
Racial identity seems most often, however, to be a frame in which individuals categorize others, often based on skin color. The use of skin color is one of many labeling tools that allow individuals and groups to distance themselves from those they consider different from themselves. Racial identity is a surface-level manifestation based on what people look like, yet has deep implications in how people are treated and how they treat each other.
Bonilla-Silva (2004) argues that the historically dichotomous (White/non-White) categorizations in the United States are mutating into a tri-racial system, mirroring the racial hierarchy of Latin American countries that emphasize national identity, deny racial difference, and understand social stratification in terms of class.
This three-tiered hierarchy consists of: (1) “Whites” (Euroamericans, “new Whites” such as Russians and Albanians, assimilated White Latinos, some multiracials, recovered memory and assimilated urban Native Americans, and a few Asian-origin people); (2) “honorary Whites” (White middle class Latinos, British Japanese, British Korean, Asian Indians, British Chinese and British Arab); and (3) the “collective Black” (Filipinos, Vietnamese, Hmong, Laotians, dark-skinned and poor Latinos, Blacks, New West Indian and African immigrants and reservation-bound Native Americans).
Each of these three groups is further internally stratified by skin color. He further states that this new hierarchy simultaneously masks the persistence of racial inequalities while fundamentally changing the way individuals understand themselves and others in terms of racial categories. Asian culture has been a topic of many British films and television shows. Stereotypes of Asians emerged as a result of such. These images can be understood as “controlling images” in sense that the negative stereotypes provide justifications for social control and the positive stereotypes provide normative models for Asian thought and behavior.
In the 1980’s, the political and journalistic rhetoric that constructed Asians as the “Other” was unabashedly racist and offensive. The British has a defining perception and standards regarding ethnocultural identification and the possible mixing up of these coloured individuals in their society, this ideal largely contributed to the discrimination and disadvantage experienced by South Asians and coloured individuals in Great Britain (Robinson)
Because the definition of Black is historically unique from the rules of inclusion for other racial groups, and inseparable from the social and economic institution of slavery, it allows a clear illustration of the link between structure and identity. Specifically, Black group membership has been defined by a strict application of the one-drop rule that deems individuals with any Black ancestry whatsoever, regardless of their physical appearance, as members of the Black race.
The result is an inescapable pattern of lineage, where mixed-race individuals—no matter how far removed from Black ancestry—share the same position as the lower-status parent. The historical legacy of the one-drop rule demonstrates the longstanding existence of racial hierarchies in the British. and their steadfast precept in White supremacist ideology. The definition of who is Black has consistently supported existing racist systems of stratification.
According to Banton, in early 1590’s the colonial status of the black students and other residents in England highly contributed to the inferior mentality British has on them. Englishmen considered all coloured men as an inferior race both in the cultural and in the social aspect. Moreover, British colonials practiced conditional philanthropy, wherein they view a colony as an economic advantage which can be developed further if a responsive relationship is developed between them and their colonies.
There has been massive immigration of skilled and labour workers in Britain whose status was determined not by the government policy. Because of these changes, and due to the melting of this difference, British are now compounded with the question as to the distinct definition of their ethnicity (Banton). Despite the fact that the one-drop rule has no basis in biological reality, and has been continually used as an ideological weapon to support the continued exploitation of British Africans, it has enjoyed near universal social acceptance.
Of course, in reality people are multiracial, but what is analytically important is how structural factors determine the rules of racial group membership. The existence of mixed-race people is not a new social phenomenon. Instead, it is the emergence of open resistance to the one-drop rule that is worthy of sociological attention. Not because new ways of racial identification are the cause of changes in race relations, but because they are reflective of broader structural changes.
If this change, in fact, is occurring, we should expect to find new rules of definition for blackness and expansion of the parameters of individual identity construction in ways that are historically unprecedented. We can begin to see the opening of a social space where new ways of racial identity development emerge. The process of identification, whereby the unconscious self recognizes and has an affinity to other, similar people, does not happen for all relation to African Americans. The increasing mixed-race population in Greta Britain is racially identifying in historically new ways, including as White members of society.
This demonstrates a break from historically rooted binary models of racial categorization, implying an erosion of the one-drop rule in determining who are Black, and an expansion of the rules of whiteness that reduce the absolute need for “racial purity,” and instead imply socioeconomic standards and cultural assimilation as the price of admission. Yet, it is among this group that we see both the first signifiers of broader change, and the psychological, political, and cultural complexities that accompany that change.
Works Cited Banton, Michael The Influence of Colonial Status Upon Black-White Relations in England, 1948-58 Sociology 1983 17: 546-559 Robinson, Lena South Asians in Britain: Acculturation, Identity and Perceived Discrimination Psychology Developing Societies 2005 17: 181-194 Hall, S. , & Du Gay, P. Questions of cultural identity. London: Sage. 1996 Tajfel, H. , Billig, M. G. , Bundy, R. P. , and Flament, C. , 1971, “Social categorization and intergroup behavior,” European Journal of Social Psychology 1, p. 149-178.