The concept of identity is of comparatively modern origin. According to Castells (2004), its equivalent national identity is, in fact, more recent and appears to date back to the 1950s when it substituted terms such as national soul, national genius and national character. By Du Guy, Evans, and Redman (2000), the term identity refers to a person, and is analogically extended to include the collectivities that relate to people, for example, nation-states. On the other hand, Gauntlett (2002) defines national identity as the total of all qualities, which are either real or imaginary, which in the minds of people distinguishes a country. In this regard, the paper discusses how national identity and culture define the personal identity.
People posses countless qualities and attributes, and stand in various relationships with others. Noonan (2003) cites that some of these relationships are transient and contingent while others are tenacious and central. The bottom line is that these relationships and attributes influence them in various ways. The mere fact that we belong to a certain group is a contingent fact of one’s life. Humanity, religion, gender, culture, moral commitments, moral and psychological dispositions, dominant passions, and values constitute people in that they either dump them at all or cannot do it without becoming different from others. Since they form human beings’ personalities, they become an inherent part of people. This, therefore, makes it extremely difficult to define personal identity independently of the above things that constitute an individual.
In accordance with Noonan (2003), identity refers to self-definition and bestows a sense of personhood or self that is often found in interaction. Identity is an incessantly growing process of negation and not rigid identity. Gauntlett (2002) also claims, ‘Identity is not a harmonious process because there remains the propensity in that many people have various, fragmented and incomplete identities’. In the words of Castells (2004), the pursuit of national identity needs an emphasis on the characteristics of a description of a country that identify a heritage and institutions held in common.
Nation is a term about which significant uncertainty exists. Initially, a nation was considered as similar with the term state, which is the reason for the term nation-state applied in various countries such as France, England, and Germany upon transforming into modern forms after the fall of the medieval concept (Noonan 2003). However, there is also another concept of state-nation that is widely used in the US and Australia. These two terms have differed in the order of words. The present and universal usage of the term nation refers to the category of people who, because of common culture, association and history, consider themselves as a different ethnic or people group and who seek to form a statehood of their own (Gauntlett 2002).
The crucial difference between these two concepts of nation and state, which is an objectively politico-legal-coercive one and subjectively psychological one, leads to a disjunction that can result in the important tension. Many social scientists and philosophers recognize the association between these two concepts as identity (Noonan 2003). Thus these terms have significant influence in creating nations and states.
Various theorists of identity have viewed it as the subjective condition of a sense of belonging in which the members of the group identify with one another. Du Guy, Evans, and Redman (2000) point out, ‘There are two significant perceptions concerning the nature of the identity of a group’. The first perception is the group identity is something that is common among the members of a group. The second one is that group identity is metaphorically like an individual and is his or her own separate identity which has emerged.
National identity is often perceived as a process taking place at subjective level such as esprit de corps, mood or morale, except that it is extremely sophisticated and includes epistemology and myths. Du Guy, Evans, and Redman (2000) define national identity as a process of cooperative self-awareness that has boundaries, and continuity in terms of space and time respectively. National identity is in communication and communion either externally or internally. It is also engaging in enterprises with the universe and forethought and afterthought. The aforementioned researcherstheorized as well, ‘National identity is a feeling of responsibility for actions that need to be performed both individually and collectively, and holding other people responsible for their actions’ (Du Guy, Evans, & Redman 2000). The end-product becomes successful survival and adaptation.
The roles of nation identity were cited by Du Guy, Evans, and Redman (2000), who suggested three major functions. They said, ‘The first role of national identity is providing a satisfying answer to the fear of individual oblivion via the identification of with the nation’. The second role is offering personal identity and renewal by becoming part of the political family. The third role is enabling the realization of feelings of the society, particularly through the deployment of ceremonies and symbols. These three roles have an apparent association with identity of citizens and define identity.
Many social scientists view national identity as a common psychological condition that is essential for the survival of the politico-legal-coercive state. However, the presence of a firm state can also bring about a strong sense of national identity. Various political scholars have discussed the order of preference in the national identity relationship, especially in the situation of nation building or politics of development. The preference order formulated is to visualize the complex relationship as dependent. This implies that development of strong national identity will cause the development of stable state and vice versa. A stable state will also result in the development of a national identity. On the other hand, a declining and an unstable state will lead to a failing sense of national identity.
How Culture Defines People
Culture has various meanings depending on the context of usage. It might refer to the understanding and appreciation of arts, music and literatures. According to Du Guy, Evans, and Redman (2000), culture might also refer to the growing bacteria for study. The concept of culture of the country is significant to this study. A nation’s culture constitutes of various aspects. According to Du Guy, Evans, and Redman (2000), ‘It is influenced by the background, language and beliefs of the people of a nation’. Furthermore, it includes the various ways that people express themselves in movements, words, images and music. The culture of a nation defines the music they listen to, the ways they choose to spend their time, the movies they watch and the sports they encourage. The interplay of these factors influences how nations and individuals view themselves and how they establish their identity in the international scene.
The indicated above scholars point out that the culture of a nation is the expression of character of a particular nation (Du Guy, Evans & Redman 2000). For instance, Canadian culture is a mirror that reflects the histories, lives and identities of Canadians. For this reason, many governments across the world are protecting their culture via regulation and subsidies.
By Du Guy, Evans, and Redman (2000), the culture of an individual defines him or her. The activities people do, the way they think, speak, the traditions people practice and the ways individuals socialize with form their identity. For example, a person from Hispanic background, practices a unique culture to any other in the world. Because traditions are important to people, it shapes them into individuals who define their cultural background (Gauntlett 2002).
Since there are diverse cultures in the entire world, cross-fertilization is likely to take place (Noonan 2003). A child who has never been to an Anglo-Indian school is bound to experience the new culture and concepts. Sometimes people from different cultures face difficulties in socializing. The reason is the culture defines people. Besides culture defining the identity of an individual, the one spends most of his or her time affecting one’s personality.
The culture of the person one socializes with leaves an impression on him or her. It is evident that an individual will adopt ideas, traditions and customs of the people they socialize with (Du Guy, Evans & Redman 2000). Does this imply that a human changes his or her culture when he is influenced by the culture of others? According to Du Guy, Evans, and Redman (2000), “One changes his identity because people will define others based on their present culture”. Nevertheless, some people are capable of adjusting to different cultures available in the world by practicing more than one culture. Those authors stress that it is not necessary to stick to one culture and, therefore, many people might have interests in interacting and socializing with people from more than one culture (Du Guy, Evans & Redman 2000). In addition, the amazing aspect of culture is that it is able to change from one form to another based on the cultural area. In the words of Du Guy, Evans, and Redman (2000), this plasticity enables persons to feel like part of the society wherever they go. This implies that identity also can change depending on the cultural area.
Despite being trapped by culture, identity is dynamic and fluid. Accordingly to Du Guy, Evans and Redman (2000), ‘Identity changes as one moves in life and adopt new ideologies, cultures, beliefs and languages’. Identity seems to be in a constant motion, similar to language and culture, which in turn assists in creating new complex identities influenced by the cultural heritage, geography, family and religion. At any given moment, identity is a snapshot of an individual who continues to develop and identify himself or herself in various ways (Du Guy, Evans & Redman 2000). People are not born with a fundamental nature of identity within them.
Many contemporary social theories and cultural studies have investigated cultural identity. In the few recent years, another form of identification emerged (Du Guy, Evans, & Redman 2000). This form of identification breaks down the comprehension of an individual as a rational whole subject into a set of various cultural identifiers. As Du Guy, Evans, and Redman (2000) assert these cultural identifiers might be the outcome of different conditions such as gender, location, history, race, language, sexuality, ethnicity, religious beliefs and food among others. The rifts between cultures can be extremely fine in the selected parts of the world, for example, the United States and Canada, where people are ethnically different and social unity depends majorly on the social beliefs and values.
Culture, as a historical reservoir, is a significant factor in influencing the identity. Some critics such as Du Guy, Evans, and Redman (2000) have argued that preservation of cultural identity is a divisive force in the society. The critics have pointed out that cosmopolitanism provides people with the great sense of common citizenship. In considering the realistic association in the international society, states might share an intrinsic part of their culture that provides an optional way of identifying with each other. According to Du Guy, Evans, and Redman (2000), ‘A nation offers a structure for identity referred to as external cultural reality that influences the distinctive internal cultural realities of people within the country’. The interplay between the new media and cultural identity is also of interest.
The construction of identity within people is not a theoretical process. It is historical attached to the culture and integrates a lot of feelings and emotions (Du Guy, Evans & Redman 2000). For many people it can be traumatic because as they grow from childhood to adulthood they do not find the support to be themselves in the face of harmful or cultural expectations. Identities are largely grounded to histories, similar to human culture (Du Guy, Evans & Redman 2000). Similar to the way countries are distinguished geographically by certain terrains influenced by natural forces over time, identities are affected by religious, governments, educational and other cultural institutions that have been influenced by the history.
The term identity refers to a person and is analogically extended to include the collectivities of human such as nation-states. National identity is the total of all qualities, which are either real or imaginary, which in the minds of people distinguishes a country. People posses countless qualities and attributes, and stand in the various relationships with others. Some of these relationships are transient and contingent while others are tenacious and central. National identity is often perceived as a process taking place at subjective level, for instance, esprit de corps, mood or morale, except that it is extremely sophisticated and includes epistemology and myths. A nation’s culture constitutes of various aspects. It is influenced by the background, language and beliefs of the people of a nation. The activities persons do, the way people think, speak, the traditions people practice and the ones in general and individual alone socialize with form their identity. The latter seems to be in a constant motion, similar to language and culture, which in turn assist in creating new complex identities influenced by the cultural heritage, geography, family and religion.