IDENTITY AND SOCIAL POSITIONING: A DEBATE
I placed headings to indicate the ideas being discussed.
Questions of Identity as Social Unifier
"In an environment were everyone has one singular thing in common: IDENTITY"
Hmmmm...leads to some interesting questions:
Is identity monolithic,singular or plural? Is it constant or shifting? What may be meant by commonality of identity among social groups?On what indices are these commonalities based on?
A memorable work that comes to mind on this is the conversation between Densu and Damfo in Ayi Kwei Armah's novel The Healers on the constitution of the self through multiple identities, mediated through social conditioning and more individualistic drives, and the need to be selective about what aspects of the self one should identify with.
Identity Understood in Relation to Conceptions of the Self
Almost certainly, the answer to those questions above will depend on the conception of the nature of the self that forms the framework in terms of which one answers the question.
The Self in African and Western World Views
Various schools of thought,from Africa,to Asia and the West,can be distinguished as well as related in terms of their conception of self. Classical Bini thought can be understood in terms of a dialectical relationship between the ontological essence represented by Ehi and other aspects of the self,like the Yoruba Ori and the Igbo Chi,including the concept of the Inner Self and the Holy Guardian Angel in Western esotericism and the image of God in the human being in Biblical terms.
The Self Understood in Relation to Non-dualism and Qualified Monism in Indian Philosophy
Within classical Indian philosophy,one observes two different but related positions identified with Sankara and Ramanuja,in which Sankara is described as arguing for describing reality primarily in terms of ultimate being and the material universe as illussory,nondualism, while Ramanuja argues for a qualified monism,,in which the material universe also demonstrates a degree of reality,although foundational and ultimate reality is not vested in the material universe..Within such a context,for the Sankara view the only valid self would be the ultimate self or Atman,not the conventional self while for the Ramanuja perspective the selves may be understood as being correlative.Of course this is a crude and possibly partially if not significantly inaccuarate summation,since Iam not famiilar with the ideas but have only read them briefly.
The Service of the Catholic Priest in Relation to the Relationship between the Ethnic and the Vocational/Institutional Self
With reference to the questions emerging from the argument conducted on the question of ethnicity in relation to being head of Benin Catholic diocese or being responsible for churches in the first place,as evoked in another context by an autobiographical work by a Jesuit on his complementary and contrastive social and religious identities and the painful process of their interrelationship,what identity should a person like Fr.Orobator identify with primarily-his Bini identity in relation to such issues as some of the Bini laity would want a fellow Bini like him to be in charge of Benin diocese or his Jesuit identity on account of which he has been posted to far away Kenya as Principal charge of five countries in the Est Africa mission,in which as of when he made the video I posted,there was no indigenous priest,nobody from Kenya?
Research and the Perceptual Position of the Self
"In qualitative research, you learn on day [one?] of any advanced research methods class about identity/positionality. That our identity and sense of self invariably influence our research- how we gather and interpret data"
I would be grateful for titles of texts that can guide me on this.My experience with research methods teaching does not seem to have emphasised this this but it has been central to my work.I understand it as central to the work of Georg Gadamer in his seminal Truth and Method.Thanks for giving this shape for me.
Who are You:Everything and Nothing or One Thing and Something?
“You can never bring yourself to say exactly who you are and from whence you come...according to you, you are neither (or both), Edo and/ or Yoruba. When the Yorubas ask you to identify yourself you vacillate and take flight and when the Edos inquire about your lineage you begin your purple monkey textual dance and coyly take leave of the discussion.
Why are you so uncomfortable with your identity? Why do you have this seemingly intractable cultural inferiority complex? Why have you made yourself a cultural nonentity, constantly putting on the borrowed garb of other cultures? And while must you obliquely occupy this in-between space of nothingness. Any normal human being's identity should be sacrosanct!"
Emphasis there is mine to reflect the sections I find most intriguing.
Cultural Nomadism and Cultural Rootedness
"constantly putting on the borrowed garb of other cultures"
Is it not possible that my culture is actually largely cosmopolitan and not ethnic?I do have an ethnic geographical affiliation through my family,but does that make that ethnic source my culture?A place I have such little memory of,even though they gave me shelter during the Nigerian Civil War? Benin is actually the central location of my cultural development. It is becoming increasingly evident,though, that people experience Benin in different ways.For me it has been a cosmopolitan crossroads while for others it is their ancestral land in relation to which only Bini people are legitimate.
Does the fact that I made the mistake of not learning Bini make a difference here? I doubt it.
Self Identification and Perception by Others
“Without your willingness to identify yourself, your audience essentially wastes time taking you seriously”.
Is this true? Is a definition of ethnic identity vital to discourse,even on issues of knowledge systems developed by particular ethnicities,such as the Yoruba/Orisa Ifa and Benin Olokun? Is one’s mode of engagement with such discourses,which may or may not be as an indigene not more relevant than whether or not one is of an indigenous background?
Questions on Identity as Absolute Validation
"identity should be sacrosanct"
Important but not an idea that can be treated with abslute certainty.For example,the expressions: “My mind", "My life" Who is that "my"? Is that "I" represented by the "my" inexorably idetified with the Joan Oviawe who perhaps awas born in Benin,grew up there and later emigrated to the US? Perhaps.In the mind of that Oviawe,we should be able to find threads of thoughts emerging from that history,a mental pattern shaped by it,definable in terms of memories, associational patterns, emotions,attitudes,perspectives,forming a more or less unified whole.
But if one looks even more carefully,there is a state in which the self can be experienced to some degree independently of the thoughts and emotions constructed by that social history.The naked sense of self awareness.Just knowing that you are.The sense that you are.Isness.Is that not the core of the socially constructed self? The pearl around which it has formed and which therefore predates it? Can this core understand itself beyond the mere fact of self-acknowledgement? That possibility and the analytical process described above is the core of the philosophy of the Indian philosopher and mystic Ramana Maharshi,as described to Paul Brunton in in Brunton's A Search in Secret India.The book and the Bendel Book Depot at Eghosa in Benin where I bought it are linked for me in memory as repositories of wonderful and liberating knowledge.
Maharshi advised reflection on that sense of basic identity.I have tried it a few times.The lasting effect is powerful.Brunton wrote that it took him into a cosmic awareness,since the roots of the individual sense of self awareness are understood by this philosophy to be in the self awareness that underlies the cosmos.