Culture and Identity

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<translated from Swedish:>

Ingela Holmstrom

The text below is based on Riley, Wikan, Feuer and Feinberg and their discussions on topics such as culture and identity.

Culture - an ambiguous term[edit | edit source]

"When a man is subject to violence, it is called torture, But when a woman is subject to violence, it is called culture."

These memorable words uttered Nasim Karim before the Norwegian Parliament, says Unni Wikan in Generous Betrayal - Politics of Culture in the New Europe (2002, p 107). Nasim Karim is a Norwegian woman of Pakistani origin who became the first woman in Norway who got her forced marriage annulled by law. She has been living under an assumed identity for years and have launched wrote a fictional book, Izzat - For the Sake of Honor (1996) about a woman named Noreen and how she, from having had a good upbringing will be forced into a marriage, which she later flees. But the fictional story of Noreen has its true counterpart in many other stories, that have taken place, and that still takes place in countries such as Norway and Sweden. Wikan talks about several women's fates in his book, forcing up our eyes to what is happening right in front of us, but excused because it's about culture. She brings up the example child welfare authorities in Norway are afraid that they will think that they do not respect immigrants' cultures and that they should be regarded as racists if they are interfering in what they perceive as anomalies in homes. Many Norwegians feel that the concept of culture is often used to label them as racists and correspondingly so is experiencing many immigrants, according to Wikan, that the concept of culture used to stereotype them and simultaneously wipe out the respect for the individual. There will also be an obstacle to achieving integration.

Norway has ruled that immigrants have a right to maintain a separate cultural identity and that they should be treated with respect for their culture, but this culture comes into conflict with Norwegian law and the core values ​​that Norwegian society is based, so the culture must give way in favor of the law. This is provided in the "Goals and Objectives for Immigration Policy" (Stortingsmeldning 1987-88) (Wikan, p 70).

Anthropologist Paul Bohannan mean, according to Wikan, that culture today has gone astray and that the term is used a little willy-nilly to promote different kinds of special interests. As an example of this tells Wikan on how she can get calls where the caller has two entirely different purposes: The first type of call, for example from social worker who says that they are working with a family where the husband beats his wife and their children, but mentioning that it is their culture to do so, so what should they do? The second type of call comes from lawyers who want to Wikan to testify in court in favor of men who were charged with assaulting eg his wife, on the grounds that they do so because it is their culture. Wikan argues that "culture" has come to stand for the exotic and alien instead of the common among people but she emphasizes that the conflict really is not between an immigrant culture and a Western European culture, but between an urban and a rural way of life.

However, not cultures come together, writes Wikan on, "culture" is a word, a concept - and such can not be met. Instead, it is about people meet. The same thoughts are with Walter Feinberg, who in his book Common schools, uncommon identities (1998), among other things, takes it up to show each other respect. He believes that respect is something that is not given by one culture to another culture, or a culture to an individual, but rather it is something that individuals give to one another (p. 89).

Feinberg has the purpose of his book to develop a rationale for a pu education. He wants to develop a kind of educational theory that listening to parents and other community members' interest and concern when they want the schools to support the values ​​and identity that are in the community (1), for he describes it so that many parents no matter what cultural position they have, share a desire for their own children to get an education experience that supports their common values ​​(p. 17). It is important that schools teach children how they should choose, but not what they should choose, and it teaches them how they can improve their own ideas and how they can speak and write in an authentic and compelling way (p. 245). If children develop a more questioning attitude, so the school has done its job, says Feinberg (p. 241).

What then kultuens role in education? Feinberg believes that learning never occurs outside culture, but always within it and because of it. Culture implies conditions for learning and making learning possible (p. 63f), but nothing says that it is culture alone that determines the way one sees the world or that it does so in a way so that part of the world is not accessible to people from more than one culture (p. 72). One may ask whether it is possible to translate experience from one culture to another. Unless it is certain that one can feel or judge other cultures - how can you justify having a school for all children from many different cultures?

"Strong culturalism" believes that there is an impenetrable wall between cultures so that we can not quite understand why members of other cultural groups do what they do (p. 86), but Feinberg says that this is wrong, and gives as examples of this how parents from different cultures have a better understanding of each other based on parenting than those who are parents and those who are not within their own culture.

In his book takes Feinberg also the concepts of pluralism and multiculturalism. He argues that these two come from the same source (a liberal political and educational theory), but they lead in different directions and representing different social visions. Pluralism allows to cultural respect is part of a democratic society and are quite tolerant towards cultural affiliations in school while multiculturalism instead encourages of cultural identity and pride in their own cultural tradition.

So far I have discussed how one can look at culture and how it can be used in various environments, but what does the term "culture"? The word itself comes originally from Latin and meant there about to "work with animals or on the fields," but the concept has since been expanded through the years, so that eg in the 1200s could refer to a clog or a field that was cultivated and in the 1500s it was referring to the development of a specific mental ability. During the 1700s, was then German Romanticism inflytesrik and "cultural" fit in very well there. Just German Romanticism probably had a decisive influence on why the idea of ​​culture was so diverse and succéartad writes Philip Riley in Language, culture and identity (2007, pp. 21ff).

Wikan argues that "culture" refers to the values, norms and skills that we associate with a group of people, but there is not a universal defintion of the term. As an example of this, she says that about 30 years ago, there were more than 156 definitions of the term in use (p. 80). Similar ideas we find at Riley, who with eg Kroeber and Kluckhohn (1952) points out that the term culture is very polysemisk and frustrating ambiguity. They also feel that the term is used more and more frequent and wide today (p. 21). Since the term is so ambiguous and two members of the same society can have very different culture Riley says that one can see culture as a kind of smorgasbord. Feinberg and Riley gives anyhow two different definitions of the term. Feinberg argues that culture is a network of meanings to which people have access, and from which they can communicate with and recognize others (Feinberg, p 4) and Riley explains that culture is the sum of the information, the assumptions, the values ​​and skills a person needs to be involved in the community and in situations in private life (Riley, p 40).

Identity or identities[edit | edit source]

Identity is not something we can decide themselves, but it is something that is determined by, or constructed from, other people, writes Riley in Language, culture and identity (2007). He starts namely his book by talking about how he during a visit with his family in Hong Kong had been persuaded by her daughter to go out and eat at a restaurant that was not tourist-oriented and because they could either language or read the menu, so chose the daughter randomly anything on the menu. A moment later, the whole family served sausage, bacon and eggs. Riley says he still today do not know if that was what really stood out on the menu, or if they were served this meal just because they looked like the ones that wanted this kind of food (pp. 1f). Riley says that we are constantly surrounded by others who constantly tells us who we are - we do not do it themselves. Identities are formed not on the basis of nothing or of themselves, but they are products of social interaction between individuals in society (p. 16).

In his book focuses Riley on the different types of "us" and "we" as constructed in interaction with others, and he takes the help of two quite different traditions in this work: Knowledge Sociology and Etnolingvistiken. Knowledge Sociology examines the social factors that shape that applying the knowledge in a given society. It also explores the relationship between social structures and thinking and instead of asking questions like "is this theory true?" so ask knowledge sociologists why something was right and true for a particular person in a particular context. Etnolingvistiken is instead about the relationship between language and culture as well as between communicative practices and cognitive models of language and thought. Ethno Linguists seek to understand and describe the role of language in the formation of the ways in which a group's members relate to the world. Riley connects this to the identity: "These ways of knowing and being are the stuff Which identities are made of" (p. 10).

We change ourselves in different situations and in different roles that we have in our daily lives. In any given day, I myself can have the role of graduate students, corporate executives, friend, wife and mother. In all these different situations I think and act differently and identify myself differently. The people around me looking at me at the same time in very different ways and thus contribute to my identity in different contexts, the same way that I do it for them. Riley describes this as the identity just as much involves a consideration of others, as it is about one's own making. In social terms, the identity therefore only be treated in reference to others (p. 87), and social identity is created through a configuration of membership, a membership that is knowledge-and language-based.

Similar thoughts are highlighted by Avital Feuer in Who Does This Language Belong To? (2008), with Pavlenko and Blackledge (2004) argues that "identity is viewed as a dynamic and shifting nexus of multiple subject positions, or identity options , Such as mother, accountant, heterosexual or Latina "(p. 9). Feuer argues that begrepet "identity" is very complex and it has been studied and defined in many different academic disciplines, but there is no unified theory or definition that comprehensively addresses everything that identity entails. Feuer itself uses, with Hall (1996), the post-modern sociological definitions, presenting identity as "a fluid, fragmented, and fractured phenomenon" (p. 9). Identity is not a description of who we are or where we come from, but it is about what we will become in the future, how we prepared and how we produce ourselves, he writes (p. 10).

Feuer conducted a research study on one of the largest universities in Canada, in a class with students who had chosen to take a course in Hebrew. The university is located in one of Canada's largest cities, which is multicultural with over 100 different ethnic groups. The city has one of the largest Jewish populations in Canada and there are Jewish immigrants from countries such as Israel, the former. Soviet Union, Argentina and South Africa. The study was initiated after Feuer admitted to class after personal contact with a professor and for two months he followed since the class through participant observation and meticulous field notes. After the two months he conducted a number of interviews, both individually and in groups, where he assumed his field notes and took up discussion of the Jewish, code-switching in class, group dynamics, etc. His study focused on language, identity and code-switching, and therefore he himself was very attentive to their own linguistic choices and how they impact on students' linguistic choices. Feuer spoke himself both English and hebeiska, but always began his speaking in Hebrew. If he was spoken to in English as he exchanged to answer in English and he was very careful to tell the students that they are fully free to choose if they wanted to speak to him in English or Hebrew - or in both languages ​​simultaneously.

In their study examined Feuer get answers to three main questions:

1. What unique frameworks of ethnic identity do students and teachers of Hebrew constructs for themselves?

2nd What is the place of Hebrew in participants' ethnic identities?

3rd How did participants' ethnic identity frameworks Affect classroom dynamics?

He found that discussions of Judaism was a natural and even expected part of the Hebrew class, and that there was both a unified "we" feeling, while there were various sub-groups within the class, including depending on the background the students had. Eg so could students who had lived in Israel speak hebeiska floating, while their Canadian classmates had to struggle to speak the language in a coherent way. Those who spoke fluent easily took over the discussions, interrupting those who could not speak so well and this affected group dynamics. Feuer considered that the Hebrew spoken so fluent in the class was a sort of "teenage Hebrew". As the students left Israel in their early teens, they had this language with them and then they lived in Canada for a few years so it seemed their language fossils have been, he says.

To give an interlocutor membership, to include or exklundera others in or from a group or to consolidate an identity code-switching may be used, Riley writes (p. 117). This we also find examples in Feuers study, in which he says that two of the students stated that they used the Hebrew as a kind of secret code, which included members of their own North American, Jewish social group and which excluded others around them. The language used as contact elements and created a sense of solidarity and exclusivity (p. 60).

This is shown in more places in Feuers study. For those students who have Israeli backgrounds were eg the Hebrew language a kind of membership card to a "true Israeli identity" and a deciding factor when it decided the membership of others, but the other students pointed out how hard it is to be admitted, for although they are, then they are in Israel, trying to keep all their conversations in Hebrew so always insist the Israelis to respond in English.

Students in Feuers study had different objectives in that they took the class, as they wanted to maintain the Hebrew language they already knew and that they wanted to pass it on to their children, but one important thing that emerged from the study was that the students really went course primarily to learn Hebrew, but because they would participate in a social group activity twice a week. The students saw simply the Hebrew language and the Hebrew class as something they had in common and that was part of their identity.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Feinberg, Walter (1998): Common schools uncommon identities. National unity and cultural difference. New Haven: Yale University Press. Chapter 1, 3 & 9. Approximately 80 s
  • Feuer, Avital (2008): Who does this language belong to? Personal narratives of language claim and identity. University of Maryland. 137 s
  • Riley, Philip (2007): Language, Culture and Identity. An Ethnolinguistic Perspective. London: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.. 265 p
  • Wikan, Unni (2002): Generous Betrayal. Politics of Culture in the New Europe. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 69-114 p

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