The Matter of Identity
What is identity?
Identity is what defines you and validates your existence. A simple ID card having your name, your father’s name, DOB, nationality, domicile, designation, and some serial number with a stamp helps you each and every day to legally enter the building where you reside, to sit in an exam, to enter your own cabin, to be a part of a democracy where you can vote and “choose” what you want.
Identity has remained a much discussed topic till date. identity is not just what has been said about it in the above lines. It is more than a piece of paper which you generally tie around your neck, or carry in your wallets.
Identity, a term which holds its own meaning for each individual- is located in caste, class, gender, nation, political views, and also in the concepts of home, trauma, love, compassion, passion etc. While the former categories form the outer validation, the latter form the self.
Phenomenology has often questioned the concept of identities. Most of the available philosophy has settled with the idea that identities are the already available categories in which each individual is fitted from the very time of the birth, and then is repeatedly assigned categories through out life. Medical assigns a certain sex at birth, parents assign a name, religion assigns caste and hierarchy, state assigns citizenship, thoughts of nationalism and patriotism.
Are identities objective?
The part of identity which is defined in set categories like gender, nationality, religion etc. form the objective side, while the “self’ forms the subjective part. It is when an individual fails to conform his/her subjective identity with the objective categories that the concept of identity comes into being.
Identities are not fixed, but are fluid in nature
Identities, as Stuart Hall posits in his writings, is not a fixed idea. Identity is not a condition, but turning out to be. Identities are formed when a person confronts a group or community and often connects with the same. At this stage one can say that identities are formed with similarities, but the truth remains that identities are often formed with dissimilarities.
What causes individuals to question their identities?
People who have often questioned their identities are the ones who have failed to conform with the set categories and have deviated from them. The very concept of identity sometimes fails to assure individuals a safe place for their “selves”. It is at this stage when the categories offered by state i.e., of gender, nation, religion etc., come in contact with the self which is formed by compassion, love, trauma, sexuality etc. that identities get questioned.