Identity is never simple

When we interview for a job, the most frequent question to be asked is: Can you introduce yourself in short?  How many forms we filled out in our life, like the application form, we need to write our name, age, gender, ethnicity, hobbies, religion, nationality and political orientation… Maybe we didn’t realize that, when we fill out those question, it’s the process we identifying ourselves. Various labels on us helping us to locate ourselves in society also differentiate us from others, for me, I define myself as Asian, female, friendly, an international student studying in UMN.

According to Erikson’s Identity Model, “Identity is central to people’s psychological development, there are three aspects form identity, Soma, refers to biological process of the body and organ systems. Psyche, means psychic process of organizing individual experience or ego synthesis. And Ethos indicates that communal process of cultural organization of the interdependence of persons, which is cultural identity, when people’s identity is under effect of specific social environment, their families, community, and ethnicity. As I stated above, we sometimes describe our personality, locate ourselves in individual way, but in broader perspective, we introduce our race, religion, nationality, all these are significant parts of our identity. Especially in America, a special country with super cultural diversity, our first identity impressed other can always be our race, the cultural we belong. Here, I will focus on the relationship between the developments of identity, culture and context; share my experience from the fieldtrip in Phillips, Minneapolis.

On the global view, nothing is more influential for our identity than culture, even out personality. I was taking sociology and psychology class in California, now I am taking Intercultural communication, when we discuss the rough impression of people from different culture, people’s opinion tend to be similar, Asian people are really shy, quiet, hardworking, kind of bored sometimes, looks like nerds, they always be careful when making decisions, care about their future, some Asian students blame themselves for getting B+. American always feel confused about this point, B+ is an honor grade, isn’t it? In contrast, Whites, especially American people often leave impression like these, they are open-minded, very nice due to always having smile, they enjoy adventure, they are creative and independent, based on my experience, it’s hard to find American student care about grades like Asian do, seems like studying is a process more than results for them.  Of course not everyone perform same as people’s expectation, cause people can be different because of their specific family education, personal experience, having their individual, exclusive characteristics.  However, why people always have rough generalization for different ethnic groups, label them different identity. Here we come the discussion about intimate relationship between the culture and identity, people are labeled with different identities owing to there are various cultural background, culture plays significant role in constructing one’s identity, people normally have strong emotion toward their own culture, countless examples illustrate this point, as we live as America, there are people who are keep their cultural tradition everywhere, Somalia people insist wear their distinct traditional dress even they born in America, when I traveled in a small European style village around Santa Barbara in California, I found many interesting store are embellished in Demark style, the owner of the store are spring of Denmark people, they dress in traditional Denmark costume, still living in their small village, leading a life style that is totally different from American, even they bored in America.

We can see the importance of their culture of people around world, especially when live another country, their own culture became more meaningful for them, it brings them powerful sense of belonging, make them feel distinct, especially for minorities, keeping cultural custom means a lot for people’s formation of identity, also influence over their behavior in daily life. People may have different expectations for people with different cultural background. However, people’s belief about their identity is not firm, but can change overtime, the identity is dynamic based on people’s it’s historical and contemporary context, so does neighborhood.

As we know about Phillips, the neighborhood currently consists of people who mostly are blacks or Latinos. “Phillips is the neighborhood with high crime rates, the place mainly for minorities and people who are in poverty.” This is the most common identities for Phillips in nowadays, but things could be very different in the past, as I stated in historical report, Phillips was the place for immigrants from Europe, even wealthiest people in the city, and this is the previous identity for Phillips. But the identity for Phillips started to change due to the Great Depression; the change in identity can be a gradual process. Even Phillips was in hard time for a long time, government pays attention to its contemporary social issue very carefully, like the unemployment problem, afterward, and many multinational companies began to start business in Phillips, which largely promotes the economic development of neighborhood, relieve the pressure of employment. Therefore, Phillips got new identity instead of being poor area; people can see it as the flourished community that has great deal of business chance.

All in all, the close relationship between identity, culture and context in obvious, they influence each other in a dynamic way.

Work Cited:

Cote, J. E., & Levine, C. G. (2002). Identity, Formation, Agency, and Culture: A Social Psychological Synthesis (illustrated edition.). Lawrence Erlbaum.

Hogg, M. A., & Terry, D. J. (2000). Social Identity and Self-Categorization Processes in Organizational Contexts. The Academy of Management Review, 25(1), 121-140.


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