v6n3_4_rashid - Configuration of National Identity and...

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1 Configuration of National Identity and Citizenship in Australia: Migration, Ethnicity and Religious Minorities Tahmina Rashid * National Identity and Citizenship National identity is the sum of all the qualities, real or imaginary, which in the minds of Australian people distinguishes Australia (Crabb:1985,19). ‘The pursuit of national identity requires an emphasis on the features of an Australian “narrative” which identify a heritage, as well as institutions, held in common.’ Yet the dilemma that Australian narrative faces are the rights of aborigines and a variety of immigrant cultural traditions, making the idea of a single national identity implausible- unless the notion of identity is emptied of any substance(Kukathas: 1997, 178). Identity is self-definition and confers a sense of self or personhood, usually found in daily interactions and pubic discourse and is a continuously evolving process of negotiation, not a rigid entity. Identity turns on the interrelated problems of self recognition and recognition by the others. It’s not a harmonious process as there remains a tendency to underestimate the struggle involved in forging identities and the tension inherent in the fact that most of us have multiple, incomplete, fragmented even conflicting identities (Calhoun: 1994, Brown: 2002). Citizenship is a concept of legal status, while identity is a relational concept, presupposing a dialogical recognition of the other. Citizenship carries legal or juridical significance while identity has social and cultural weight. Identity allows for the
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2 effective formation of groups which sometimes leads to claims for legal entitlements (Wood: 1999, 19-20). Ethnic identities are inherited therefore seem to remain immutable while national identity is a fluid process in constant negotiation with its constituent groups. Ethnic diversity must be understood as a social reality not as an option, and the acceptance of ethnic cultural individuality. Singular identities cannot be formed at the expense of shared national identities, though it has to be processed through unbroken negotiation not imposition of shard characteristics and shared fate (Scott: 1991, 39). The process of assertion of ethnic identification emerges when a group believes to experience a sense of (real or imaginary) alienation, injustice, unfair exclusion from mainstream political debate of identity and nationalism (Scheff: 1994,281). Nationalism in power is often a repressive ideology demanding a strict adherence to the authority of the official embodiments of national tradition. It yields repression not just against diversity of cultural experiences but against the variety of alternative bases for personal identity, which is seen in competition with the nation (Calhoun: 1994, 325-6). Politics and demands of inclusion
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v6n3_4_rashid - Configuration of National Identity and...

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