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Identity in today’s world

The idea that identity is not a fixed instance or an unchangeable essence, would not appear to deserve more serious discussion.


Claudio Chipiana*

In the time of the revolution in communication, the ever shrinking world and the possibility of establishing simultaneous contact between people at the four corners of the world, it would be easy to think that to discussion of the strength of identity has been sidelined somewhat, to the point that it would make no sense to try and maintain that it is necessary to defend  identity.

The case of the immigrant is the most obvious, given that when they emigrate  their identity begins to alter; they adopt new habits, another language, a different citizenship and even a new homeland, with which the ‘essence’ of their identity loses its sustenance amongst the present ‘global community’.

Of course, the changes which bring about emigration are many and various, and effect society at every level.A culture of frontiers emerges, that some have referred to as the ‘third space’. For others it is the ‘performative’ identity. The Latin American actor Gregorio Gomez Peña says ‘I am full of contradictions’.

However, to these ideas, particularly the most relativist, those who see identity as too ‘essentialist’, (very much in vogue in the triumphant moments of 90’s globalization), came the reaction which was called the power of identity (Manuel Castells).

The multinationals found resistance in indigenous cultures that defended their identity, their resources and their land.

In the case of the immigrant, who is equally exposed to the power of gran capital, and to the ups and downs of the global economic crisis and the recession, they see that the only option that remains is to fight for recognition as a social minority.

The immigrant lives an experience distinct to that of local cultures, as he lives in a strange society, lives an ambivalence of being and non-being, because he has been displaced and must rebuild his identity.

Late capitalism, submerged in a deep crisis, is the cause of the greatest uprooting of the individual yet.

Emigration, most of all in the 20th Century, is a product of the requirement for labour according to  the needs of the capital. (sobretodo la del gran capital – I am not exactly sure how to translate this term  – gran capital and give it the same meaning that it aquires within the context of the spanish text).

Other reasons behind emigration are wars and internal conflicts.

Therefore, emigration is not only the result of new technology and communication. There are structural processes that depend on the international division of labour, and most of all on the asymmetries that exist between the rich north and the poor south.

In the case of the Latin immigrant, (after the first wave of emigration in the 70’s, mostly for political reasons), the second great migratory wave was due to more economical reasons, due to politics put in place by international financial organisms such as the IMF and WB.

Here we can conclude that there is something that local and immigrant identities have in common, insofar as that they must both confront the same hegemonic local and global powers if they wish to become a social force.

*Peruvian philosopher residing in London.

(Translated by Thomas Andrew Wright – – Photos: Pixabay

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