Lesson 25: Culture, Religion, Language & Identity 1

  1. Multiple affiliations/allegiances/components of I.D.
    Everyone was asked to write down their allegiances. Maalouf writes that people can't have "multiple identities"--everyone has just one, unique ID that is the *sum* of all the things that make up each person.
    Categories of affiliations included: religion, nation, language, age, gender, personal and professional interests, and other: school, status as a student, sports teams, family role, etc...
  2. Bridges and barriers
    1. People who embody multiple affiliations across conflictual dividing lines can act as "bridges" between populations. First person who came to my mind is Obama. Jessica felt that she is currently at a bridge state between childhood and adulthood. Joseph is a bridge between Christians and Arabic Muslims and Jews, as a Christian Arab.
    2. Different aspects of identity can take on more or less importance or be more or less "on display" in different situations.
      Does anyone emphasize an aspect of their identity in reaction to an enemy, oppression, persecution, or just low-level hostility?
      Michael says he is simply American while traveling in France.
      Conversely, Justyna suppresses all signs of Americaness when traveling in Poland.
      Joseph said he was Lebanese while traveling in Spain (until he met another Lebanese).
    3. Is Modernization still Westernization (or even Americanization?): Maalouf vs. Zakaria
      1. Class divided into 2 groups: yes and no.
      2. On the Yes side:
        • McDonald's and Starbucks are everywhere, and more profitable, so people's cultures are being invaded by these American brands.
        • Dubai looks like a cleaner New York, and hardly anyone speaks Arabic there.
        • Students coming to study in the U.S. have to learn English, but American students going abroad can study in English.
      3. On the No side:
        • A lot of Western culture is really not originally Western (this is a point that Sen makes too, actually).
        • The modern way of doing things is just more efficient, not particularly Western.
        • English is a handier language to learn than, say, Mandarin. It's just a way for people to communicate, for example Africans and Chinese. Has nothing to do with the West anymore.
    To be continued...!

Take-home point: All people have multiple affiliations, and their identity is the sum of all these and their personal traits and experiences. Emphasizing just one affiliation cuts people off from all their other commonalities with other people and can be very dangerous. The forces of modernization and globalization are sometimes seen as Westernization or at least standardization, turning the whole world into the same thing.