Identities—the stable syndromes of associations, feelings, and beliefs we refer to when we use that term—are constituted by larger processes (Lustik & Miodownik, 2008). Certain collective identities have been perpetuated and stabilized among societies, via the reference to national identity or nationalism, evolutionary psychology, where “ethnic or national solidarities
may function as equivalents to selected behaviors in the ancestral environment”, and also seen as constructed products of kinship processes or territorialist identifications.
Immigrants for example, when they enter a society, bring together their values and culture. They may, after a period of time of residence in the host country, assimilate through 2nd language attainment, inter marriage and so forth, or choose to remain segregated and emphasise their differences. The effects of the immigrant identity increases from the combined effects of identity affirmations and social demands coming from dominating actors present in a society. These effects can be witnessed in different communities such as the Jewish diaspora; the Muslims, who mainly base the idea of positive identity on justice and so on. This may even give rise to a many subcultures, with the dominant group showing discrimination towards the minority groups.
Identity has played a functional role in social movements. By emphasizing a group identity, social movements have sought to strengthen politically oppressed groups both by improving members’ sense of confidence and by familiarizing the external society with the existing social group. However, national or ethnic identity is sometimes also tied to demagogy, leading to ethnic or religious conflicts.
In today’s modern society however, identities are constantly formed and reinforced, in a homogeneous manner due to the effects of mass media. Political organizations have first recognized the cultural differences within their societies through the process of institutionalization of their different identities. Through multicultural policies, they have implemented the institutionalization of new identities that simultaneously allows other identities to emerge. Thus, the way and manner that proposition identity is institutionalized will be based on the institutions’ governance network.
Once identities have been institutionalized, they may need to have a political representation in the State. In terms of Singapore, the women’s political wing of PAP and the young PAP, gives representation to the successful women and youth in Singapore respectively, in the political arena. The various races in Singapore have been represented in the government, and multicultural policies, festivities and cultural representations have been set up and promoted widely in Singapore.
In another angle, more groups are coming forth to emphasize their differences, by rebelling or going against the cultural norms of a society, which fragments the society. There is thus a tension between cultural heterogeneity and homogeneity. Clearly the nation state has a daunting task of striking a balance, and in Singapore’s case, there is an emphasis on Asian values by the Government as a means of ensuring Singapore stays united beneath the cultural patchwork.
It may be thus important for the state, all the states across the globe for that matter, to advocate creation and perpetuation of a global identity. A Global identity can be understood as consciousness of an international society or global community transcending national boundaries, without necessarily negating the importance of state, nation or domestic society. There is widespread argument that it is difficult to develop global identity since the international community lacks a distinctive culture or a collective memory of the past while. Others suggest the possibility of gradually developing a cosmopolitan ideology. They agree that national or local identity is more naturally formed with the identification of race, religion, or terrain, and entails more explicit forms of expression. Global identity can be understood, not as replacing national identity, but as being additional or supplementary to it, and hence one can formulate a multilayered sense of belongingness. By seeking for international cooperation, the League of Nations tried to develop an international understanding and cultivate a sense of common concerns. The global discourse stemming from the UN can help us to “imagine” and “construct” a global world community and thereby encourage us to develop common concerns (Shinohara, 2004). Such a Global Identity may alleviate the problems arising from Individual, fragmented identities, rampant across many nations.
Lustik, I.S., & Miodownik, D,. (2008). The Institutionalization of Identity: Micro Adaptation, Macro Effects, and Collective Consequences, Studies in Comparative International Development, Summer 2002, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 24-53.
Shinohara, H (2004). Evolution in Global Identity: The League of Nations and the United Nations, UNU Global Seminar