Identity Formation

I made this for a presentation I had to give for my literature review. While it does have a lot to do with the topic of my review, the discontinuity between political rhetoric and identification amongst “the masses” in the context of Catalan nationalism, I also made it because our weekend readings (30/11–2/12) dealt with a similar topic: how migrants of similar ethnic and cultural traits to natives can be marginalized, sometimes more than migrants with no such similarities.

What’s the idea behind the graphic? It should be read left to right. On the left, we have the individual surrounded by different things he associates with (alternatively, it could also be things that others associate with that individual when they try to categorize him within some group). On the left right, the box represents a manifested identity, which is similar, in a sense, to an ideal type. The idea is that relevant associations — contingent on exogenous or endogenous factors, like current events, endogenous/exogenous political demands, et cetera (e.g. if there’s a workers’ demonstration, the man above might decide to pull out his association with syndicalism as a major identifier; or, if he feels marginalized from a group of similar ethnic traits, he might bring out non-ethnic associations to differentiate himself) — are pulled out, and then given different weights (represented by changes in the size of the bubbles once inside the cube). Other associations that aren’t considered relevant are abstracted from. The image is static, but the process is dynamic and temporal: that “ideal type” changes over time, as the factors that change the relevance of certain associations come and go.

In the context of Catalan nationalism — and I really wish I would have the artist do one more specific to Cataluña and the political rhetoric there —, the cube represents how an outsider, or a politician interested in fabricating a certain picture of his people, might manipulate a shared identity. Suppose that instead of “Catholic,” “syndicalism,” and “PSOE,” the identifiers in the cube are “Catalan (language)” and “Catalan (civic/ethnic identity).” The problem is that by taking these two associations out and abstracting from the rest, you risk leaving out other associations that the individual himself may find relevant (including his shared civic/ethnic identity with Spain and Europe, or the fact that his interpretation of Catalan (language) may be nested in his association with Spanish). In the case of Cataluña, this is a real world problem, because the majority of the population there does not share an exclusively Catalan identity (related, the majority of the population there may recognize Cataluña as a “nation” and Spain as a “state” [although, if I remember correctly, the latter is more contested], but the majority prefer the current “federal” system over an independent Cataluña).

The illustration is simple. It doesn’t say much about how people acquire associations, and I didn’t mean it to: you can assume whatever you prefer, or even assume it considers everything (interpellation, agency, interposition, reflexivity, et cetera). Make of it what you will.

  • Noor

    Nice work!