This essay summarizes an article by Landolt and Haller and an extract from Mansfield’s book ‘Theories of the Self from Freud to Harraway’. From the two works, it is deciphered that although self identity is complicated and non reducible, social learning plays a critical role in Identity formation.
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Immigrants often choose to settle in states or countries where they have people who share in their background or origin. For example, early immigrants from Cuba having settled in Miami, it became the preferred destination for Cuban immigrants and others from the Caribbean countries.
Miami as a sample state that has attracted many immigrants is multicultural and diverse. Although Miami leaders and residents speak against discrimination and enclave formations, it is however the case that society is largely fragmented along racial, ethnic and consequently cultural lines. The reason why many immigrants remain attached to their origin lies is the need to define self or place oneself in a given definite category.
The effort to connect with parents’ country of origin among immigrants is also borne out of curiosity. Equally important is the idea that when social mobility in host nation becomes precarious, immigrants are likely to focus themselves and subsequently their children to transnational opportunities available from ties with the home country.
The attachment to home country practices and moving into enclave regions leads to immigrants socializing their children in transnational way. This means that although they learn the ways of host country, they are also taught the ways, culture, religious practices and values from parents’ country of origin.
As Nick Mansfield discusses, the question of ‘I’ or what ‘I’ refers to has disturbed thinkers in all ages or historical epochs. Of more crucial relevancy in cultural studies is the understanding of self or ‘I’ across cultures and societies. Self definition is tricky because there seems to be different selves at play when an individual encounters different settings.
For example, the self who deals with my girlfriend is not the same self that deals with my parents. The two selves or ‘me’ are very different. The expressions and representations of self when fully understood provide a rich starting point in studying and understanding society or culture. However ‘I’ on its own does not bring out the influences of environment on an individual. It is for that reason that the word ‘subject’ is used interchangeably with self.
Subject as a concept captures the connotations of ‘I’ as an item that influences but is also influenced by the environment. Given the term subject is largely depended on environmental aspects, it follows that in its extensions, it takes on contextual connotations .
As a result, subject as item of inquiry is often framed by context of inquiry e.g. politico legal subject, philosophical subject, social subject etc. It is the inherent relativity in the word ‘subject’ as applied in reference to ‘self’ that has caused enormous diversity and differences in theories on the same.
Taking a genealogical approach to the study of subjectivity helps in appreciating the different strengths of theories on subject posited over time as opposed to a metaphysical approach that is inclined only towards ultimate positions, definitions or truth as truth.
As illustrated through the developments in psychoanalysts, by basing on different aspect of life, different theorist have established different conceptions of subjectivity. One of the big questions that people like Heidegger grappled with is ‘whether self as subject is a construct or we are born with an identity?”
Conclusively, looking at the case supported by Haller and Landolt’s research findings, it is clear that much to do with self definition is developed over time in the process of socialization. Looking into the different conceptions of subject as promulgated by different theorists in Mansfield’s book, it is only fair to conclude that Identity formation is largely depended on our encounters with the world and how we come to interpret the happenings in those encounters.
Nick, M, Theories of the Self from Freud to Harraway. Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2000
William, H, & L Patricia, “The transformational dimensions of identity formation: Adult children of immigrants in Miami” Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 28, No. 6, November 2005 pp. 1182 – 1214.
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- H William & L Patricia, “The transformational dimensions of identity formation: Adult children of immigrants in Miami” Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 28, No. 6, November 2005 p. 1185.
- Ibid., p. 1186
- Ibid., p. 1187
- Ibid., p. 1195
- Ibid., p. 1202
- Ibid., p. 1189
- Ibid., p. 1
- Ibid., p. 2
- Ibid., p. 3
- Ibid., p. 4
- Ibid., p. 5
- M Nick, p. 9