Identity QuestionsPeters, Bernhard
pdf-Format: Dokument 1.pdf (197 KB)
|Dokumentart:||Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung|
|Institut:||INIIS Uni Bremen|
|BK - Basisklassifikation:||73.73 (Ethnische Identität), 89.22 (Nationalismus), 89.75 (Internationale Konflikte: Allgemeines), 89.41 (Staat und einzelne Gruppierungen)|
|Sondersammelgebiete:||3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung|
Kurzfassung auf Englisch:
Many criticisms of the term "collective identity" refer to its connotations of wholeness, unity, homogeneity, and continuity or permanence. In section II I try to show that we can avoid this criticism if we use a more inclusive empirical conception of collective and national identity. Many understandings of collective identity draw too close a parallel with certain conceptions of individual identity, and fill the term collective identity with problematic normative or evaluative content. Identity is then used as a "success" term. For the sake of analytical clarity, however, it seems useful to understand the term in a more open and analytical way and to keep normative evaluations separately. (Some possible criteria for normative evaluation are mentioned in Section II.) Also some particular features of national identity, as distinct from other collective identities, are discussed. Section II deals with some controversies and misunderstandings. In current discourses about multiculturalism and cultural differences, it is often implied that collective identity is somehow based on cultural difference. It is useful, however, to see collective identities as a special part of group cultures, and to distinguish analytically between the strength of collective identity and the extent of general cultural dissimilarity between a group and its social environment. Collective identity is not necessarily based on a large degree of cultural particularity. This proposition, however, is not to be confused with another, which has recently gained some popularity: that cultural differences are merely fungible markers for the maintenance of group boundaries. Collective identities have various contents, and these are not necessarily centered in the drawing of boundaries or distinctions with the outside world. If we use an inclusive empirical notion of collective identity and drop the unitary associations of this term, it becomes obvious that we have to ask the same questions about collective identity which have been asked about the role and character of group culture or especially national culture in general: How coherent are belief systems or other symbolic systems internally? And how homogeneous is the group membership with respect to cultural features - how many versions of culture are there, adopted by various sub-groups? In the same way, collective identities may show various degrees of incoherence and cultural heterogeneity (Section III.3). Furthermore, there is the popular opposition between two "theories" of collective (especially national or ethnic) identity, which concerns its "primordial" or "constructed" characteristics. There looms a false alternative. Much of the controversy is based on a confusion of two questions: the question of the character or content of collective identities, and the question of their causal origins. Collective identities can both have "primordial" elements and be "socially constructed" (as are virtually all social phenomena, in some sense). Sections IV and V then deal specifically with national identity. There is a notorious typology of "conceptions of nationhood", which opposes "ethnocultural" (or "ethnic" or "cultural") conceptions to political or "civic" conceptions of nationhood. This typology carries a heavy normative load, favoring civic identities over the others. It is also used for explanatory purposes. Analytically, however, the typology is unsatisfactory, as are the normative and explanatory applications. A more multidimensional analysis of elements of national identity is proposed, which clarifies some possible meanings of "ethnic", "cultural" and "political" in this context. This should not only free empirical comparative research from some doubtful preconceptions. It should also help to clear up some confusions about the term "constitutional patriotism", which is especially controversial in Germany. Subsequently, there is a further discussion of the features of German national identity, with an eye to its differences from other Western (especially French and American) national identities and focused on the popular notion, that current German national identity has a strong "ethnic" component. At least if "ethnic" is understood in a narrow sense ("völkisch"), this is quite doubtful, however.
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