identity is that which is given

identity is that which is given - identity is that which is...

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identity is that which is given The anthropologist Margaret Mead once observed that in the 1930s, when she was busy remaking the idea of culture, the notion of cultural diversity was to be found only in the 'vocabulary of a small and technical group of professional anthropologists'. Today, everyone and everything seems to have its own culture. From anorexia to zydeco, the American philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah has observed, there is little that we don't talk about as the product of some group's culture. In this age of globalisation many people fret about Western culture taking over the world. But the greatest Western export is not Disney or McDonalds or Tom Cruise. It is the very idea of culture. Every island in the Pacific, every tribe in the Amazon, has its own culture that it wants to defend against the depredation of Western cultural imperialism. You do not even have to be human to possess a culture. Primatologists tell us that different groups of chimpanzees each has its own culture. No doubt some chimp will soon complain that their traditions are disappearing under the steamroller of human cultural imperialism. We're All Multiculturalists Now observed the American academic, and former critic of pluralism, Nathan Glazer in the title of a book. And indeed we are. The celebration of difference, respect for pluralism, avowal of identity politics - these have come to be regarded as the hallmarks of a progressive, antiracist outlook and as the foundation of modern liberal democracies. Ironically, culture has captured the popular imagination just as anthropologists themselves have started worrying about the very concept. After all, what exactly is a culture? What marks its boundaries? In what way is a 16-year old British-born boy of Pakistani origin living in Bradford of the same culture as a 50-year old man living in Lahore? Does a 16-year white boy from Bradford have more in common culturally with his 50-year-old father than with that 16-year old 'Asian'? Such questions have led most anthropologists today to reject the idea of cultures as fixed, bounded entities. Some reject the very idea of culture as meaningless. 'Religious beliefs, rituals, knowledge, moral values, the arts, rhetorical genres, and so on', the British anthropologist Adam Kuper suggests, 'should be separated out from each other rather than bound together into a single bundle labelled culture'. 'To understand culture', he concludes, 'we must first deconstruct it'. Whatever the doubts of anthropologists, politicians and political philosophers press on regardless. The idea of culture, and especially of multiculturalism, has proved politically too seductive. Over the past two decades, nations such as Australia, Canada and South Africa have created legal frameworks to institutionalise their existence as multicultural societies. Other countries such as Britain have no formal recognition of their multicultural status but have nevertheless pursued pluralist policies in a pragmatic
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This note was uploaded on 10/16/2011 for the course ENGLISH 101 taught by Professor Parkin during the Summer '11 term at Wilfred Laurier University .

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identity is that which is given - identity is that which is...

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