Minority Identities and Cultures, Beyond Essentialisms

Maria-Àngels Roque

Quaderns de la Mediterrània

We are not mistaken if we say that identity is linked to cultural heritage, the heritage whose cultural legacy is complex and, to a large extent, more intangible than tangible, including the different versions that we have of our own history, although, certainly, it contains some very clear signs of identity, such as language or religion. However, it must be said that this is not always the case, since many countries and communities share a language and/or religion, but at the same time possess diverse identities linked to a desire for recognition. For current theorists, in the field of anthropology identity is not something given but rather dynamic, a constant set of processes to maintain or correct a self where one accepts, places and values oneself.

The philosopher Paul Ricoeur argues that identity is a narrative that involves what happens to the individual, and we could add to peoples, over time. I think that anthropologists, more than talking about identity, are interested in understanding the feeling of “belonging” and the reasons behind it; a feeling that can affect an individual or a large group. Hence, the various theories, whether constructivist, interactionist or situationist, sit in opposition to a substantial or essentialist approach. Thus, for authors such as Erik Erikson or Edgar Morin, identity must be analysed as an experience lived by the individual or the group. Identity changes with life history, as Paul Ricoeur argues, and the feeling of belonging, which can be very rich and varied, is linked, above all, to the feeling of community, profession, religion, and cultural or political aspects. An individual may identify with several belongings depending on the moment, or all of them may overlap without being mutually exclusive. However, when discussing identity, we cannot overlook the fact that it is usually forged in the confrontation of oneself with the Other, of similarity with otherness.

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