Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Defense of Identity; A Common Cause

Sneek peek at thoughts from my second paper...

I am going to start off this post with the comments my good friend Matt wrote on my previous post on Identity in India: "Think about your high school football games. It is a rare time when all the students, parents, and teachers come together from their separate cliches and groups to cheer for their collective high school team and against the rival school. The students are part of their individual groups (seniors, juniors, jocks, nerds, etc) primarily but in battle (at the football stadium) the groups are united. This is another situation where Religion parallels sports in the US."

I really liked this comment and between this and the Hindu chapter we read, it got me thinking on identity. How do people of diverse backgrounds come together under a common identity?

Globalization has played a big part in increasing identity awareness. Just has Hindus have been able to rally around a national identity based upon religion, people rally around their own when they feel threatened. As Rithambra said in Kakar, the Hindu's are "fighting for the preservation of a civilization, for his Indianness, for national consciousness, for the recognition of his true nature" (157). A somewhat familiar theme here. The notion of defense has come up with our class before. It is in defense of a religion that people find it easier to validate violent actions.

However, it is also an important  idea to talk about. When people feel threatened by an out-groups entrance into their sphere of power - by a foreign force, foreign ideas, foreign competition, or perhaps a rival high school - the "dimensions of ethnicity stand out in sharp relief and the individual becomes painfully or exhilaratingly aware of certain aspects of one's cultural identity" (150). The defense of one's culture, convictions, and inner-self is certainly enough to encourage community with others who feel the same way. It is the inherent attack on someone's sovereignty as an individual which goes down to the basic level of human survival.

If you are no longer yourself, are you yourself anymore?

Thus to defend against a common enemy helps one keep who they are. Though in sport this individual sovereignty is not under threat as in other cases, it serves to highlight how being in a community can define your identity thus create the conditions for intense communal defense against "the others".

Globalization has been bringing up these intense battles over identity. All around the globe, people fear of their own connection to land, and culture will be diminished by foreign entities. As in the case of Anders Breivik, he identified with a Christian Europe, and to not act, would be failing himself.

...End paper preview


  1. You know, maybe this is a weird response to have, but this talk about group violence, associating with a group, and fearing loss of identity made me think of a buddhist teaching on letting go of the ego. It's hard! When something threatens our self, who we consider ourselves to be, we react like nothing else. This shows up all over the place in psychology, too (which is where Kakar is getting it from). But here, it's like the group becomes one big person whose collective "ego" is being attacked...regular quality of life issues become secondary to the problem of living the kind of life (for example an *Indian* one)that you want to live.

  2. ego is part of it, for sure. If more people were focused on building a better community than a machismo ego, we may see some significant improvements

  3. One of my other classes this semester is all about colonialism and I find that it ties into everything we discuss in our Relgion class marvelously. One interesting point that we've been examining is how the "Othering" process of colonialism, which is also totally based on ethnicity, has such a powerful capacity to dehumanize people... especially the colonialists. As you stated in this post, it's impossible to throw others into a distinct group without doing the same to oneself, and both classes that I'm taking have aptly demonstrated how dangerous this process really is.