13. Cultural identity, cultural assimilation, and multiculturalism policy
For many of today’s social theorists and cultural critics, questions of identity are a central concern. We live in a world where identity matters. It matters both as a concept, theoretically, and as a contested fact of contemporary political life. The word itself has acquired a huge contemporary resonance, inside and outside the academic world. What is identity? • To talk about our identity, we try to answer the question, "Who am I?" • We have different kinds of identity: national identity, social identity, cultural/racial identity, class identity, familial identity, gender identity, sexual identity, etc. Cultural identity is the feeling of belonging to a group or culture.We feel we belong to a group, and a group defines itself as a group, by noticing and highlighting differences with other groups and cultures. Any culture defines itself in relation, or rather in opposition to other cultures. All these identities are formed mostly beyond our control.'Culture' refers to the customs, practices, languages, values and world views that define social groups such as those based on ethnicity, region, or common interests. Cultural identity is important for people's sense of self and how they relate to others. A strong cultural identity can contribute to people's overall wellbeing. Cultural identity is not exclusive. People may identify themselves as Belarusian in some circumstances (as for example they live in Belarus) and as part of a particular culture - Polish, Chinese or Korean, for example - in other circumstances. They may also identify with more than one culture.
It is important for people to feel a sense of national identity and also to be able to belong to particular social or ethnic groups. Defining a national identity is not a simple matter. For example the USA is a diverse nation, made up of many cultural groups, with many different customs and traditions. Many people...
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