Monday, June 14, 2010

Collective Identities

This is a re-print of a post I wrote at the beginning of my blogging career. I hope that more people read it now, and this will help us all avoid recriminations of the "I-thought-you-were-this-but-you-are-actually-something-else" kind.

People often ask me why I am so interested in collective identities as a category of analysis. I believe it's because I don't have any and feel very content living without any collective identification. So people who abdicate parts of their individuality (or even give their lives) in order to promote an attachment to a collectivity perplex me. Here is my position in relation to different kinds of collective identities:

  • Gender identity: I love being a woman and believe that it is the best thing in the world (of course, I have never tried being a man, so my view must be a little biased.) However, the kind of femininity I practise is far from mainstream. I feel different from many other women much more often than I experience a solidarity with them. I identify myself as feminist but my feminism is very different from what it is generally considered to be in North America today. I have been told by "real" feminists that I am actually a male chauvinist in disguise. My theoretical findings on women's issues are often not very palatable to other feminist scholars.
  • National identity: I strongly believe that any kind of patriotism is profoundly unhealthy, but many people talked about the insidious nature of nationalism before me, so I won't repeat their arguments.
  • Linguistic identity: I don't have a native language. This has both positive and negative consequences. I could never engage in any creative writing because for that you really need a language you feel as your own on a very profound level. On the positive side, I move between different languages and different cultural spaces all day and every day. This is a very enriching albeit arduous way of being. Language is not just a way to organize words into sentences. Living in a language means adopting the whole civilization that comes with it.
  • Professional identity: I love being a scholar and an educator. I do, however, find it difficult to meet colleagues whose view of the profession and our goals within it would coincide with mine.
  • Local identity: In the past 10 years I have moved 8 times. And this summer I will be moving two more times. It is obvious that with this way of life it is hardly possible to preserve a strong sense of attachment to any locality in particular.
  • Political identity: Some of my political views are so far to the left that some people might consider them radical. For example, I believe that women should have a right to abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy whatsoever. At the same time, my political beliefs also rely on certain concepts that are considered to be deeply conservative. For instance, I am a strong believer in individual responsibility. As a result of these seemingly contradictory views, I have never been able to identify with any political party or program.


Anonymous said...

You should add that you have recently been assigned a new identity: that of a psycopath. :))))

Clarissa said...

Psychopaths of the world, unite!!! :-) :-) :-)