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|Pina Del Core, FMA|
Personal, cultural and vocation identity…
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When we talk about “culture” we are faced with very extended descriptions, such that they coincide with the entire gamut of human activities, from the multiple relationships between man and nature (finding and preserving food, finding refuge from natural forces, different ways by which man dominates and controls the natural environment) to the interaction between similar and between dissimilar social groups, between sexes, between elderly and young, etc., up to political and religious organization and attitudes toward life and evaluations or views of the world and reality (ethics, esthetics, religion). These definitions have a quality of universality (a general idea of humanity and ability for exchange) which seems in contrast with a relativist mode of understanding culture as a combination of different cultures and particular sub-cultures which can lead to a true localization (localisms, nationalisms, regionalisms, ethno-centrisms, etc.) of the universal dimension of culture. 9
“The process of globalization suggests two images of culture: the first image implies extension outside a particular culture toward one’s limit, the world. Heterogeneous cultures are incorporated and integrated in a dominant culture which at the end covers the entire world. The second image refers to the compression of cultures: elements previously isolated are now brought into contact and juxtaposition. Cultures are amassed one upon the other without clear organizational principles; culture is too much to be ordered and organized into coherent belief systems, into instruments of direction and practical knowledge.” 10
All of that re-proposes dramatically the problem of ethnic identity (or ethnicity) which must be safeguarded first of all from the threats of “mental constructions”—often of an ideological or political nature---which tend either to homologate or divide/separate (we ↔ they) what, on the other hand, should be restored to unity.
The process of emphasizing idiosyncratic cultural traits (ethnic identity), as a matter of fact, is dangerous if we don’t take into account the dynamics of change to which identity is subjected: a continual process of definition and readjustment in the direction of further differentiation from other identities (or fusion) in the contact and exchange with the “external”, with other cultures (internal/external, identity/openness). It is not easy to pedagogically manage an harmonic balance between the need of identity/belonging and the need for openness to other cultures, between national education and education for universality. Each identity which is conceived in a homogenous and totalizing way, whether individual or communitarian, is dangerous or false: it can become an instrument in the hand of ideological or political movements that pretend to define identity in a predetermined way, through opposition and exclusion regarding other groups and individuals.
It is indispensable then to rethink identity in a pluralistic and dynamic way, since it conditions the way persons and groups see themselves, how they define themselves in their similarities/differences with other individuals and groups, and how they become realized.
9 In the current cultural complexity the traditional concept of culture, understood as a whole of values, beliefs and practices widely shared and integrated into a unified view, turns out to be inadequate, especially if one starts off from the ‘prejudicial’ presupposition of the superiority of western culture. According to Smith a global culture has no “raison d’etre” because it could not guarantee that which a social group or community needs to develop an identity, that is, a sense of continuity, a shared historic memory and a sense of common destiny. “There are no world memories” that can be used to unite humanity.” [SMITH D., A., Towards a Global Culture? In FEATHERSTONE M., La cultura dislocata. Globalizzazione, postmodernismo, identità. Rome, Seam 1998, 180].
10 FEATHERSTONE, La cultura dislocata 17.
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