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Cultural Identity Explained With Examples

Samarpita Choudhury Mar 15, 2020
Cultural identity is a step ahead of one's own identity. It is not just an extension of one's own identity, but has also got shades of culture mingled within. Let's spot the features which make this a subject of study for many disciplines. Read on to know the rest.

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Is culture a way of life that is shared mutually between people, or is it a cumbersome entirety of information that flows freely within generations, or is it now reduced to being just an extension of globalization?
Cultural identity is the resultant which is processed by cultural diffusion. It is accentuated by the rigorous flow of core beliefs and practices from one generation to succeeding ones over a period of time. Identity is a personal attribute that gets affixed to an individual soon after he/she enters the domain of modern civilization.
But despite its status of 'personal belonging', it is neither self-acquired nor self-motivated. It is, on the contrary, a wholesome outcome of the myriad factors which we are exposed to. These factors are far-flung and diverse, yet, together are responsible for the formation of one's cultural identity.
The center from where the belief system of culture flows and diffuses to expand is known as cultural hearth. Let's evaluate the concept more intrinsically, and also take a closer view of the various instances which could be bordered as absolute formation of cultural identity.

Cultural Identity Definition

Before making an effort to delve deeper into the concept, it is important to view that cultural identity is not just harnessed by the elaboration of rituals, traditions, and mythology, or for that matter, it is not just a reflection of one's culture, but also the huge stock of other factors which are strikingly different from culture and tradition.
Some of them are the nationalistic views that are inculcated in one's mind, the rest is an array of things which includes smaller hearths like society, family, or any other group that the person is associated with. Bearing this in mind, the definition of Cultural Identity could be summarized as:
The identity of a whole group, whose largest unit is a race, and the smallest unit is an individual. This ownership of identity lends a sense of belonging to all members of the group, thus shaping a common cultural identity. It gives all the members, irrespective of their size, a feeling of association with the entire group.

Cultural Identity in Anthropology

In the domain of anthropology, culture holds paramount significance. It postulates that cultural identity is the way or manner of life that an individual chooses and follows. And, in a way, it is the shared or mutual way of life that people are subjected to, owing to the occurrence of cultural diffusion.
Hence, we have a 'mixed pot' situation in almost all developed nations in the world, where there has been a flow of foreign entrants due to several reasons altogether. This has led to the mixing or adulteration of either cultures; both the newcomers and the existing ones.

Formation of Cultural Identity

#1 This acquaintance with one's cultural identity begins early in childhood, when the mind is too fragile to comprehend the subtleties of complex beliefs and practices. This stage is akin with one's tendency to follow and accept norms, in toto, without knowing in actuality the purpose of those norms.
This is the stage where there is no room for in-depth thinking or reasoning. This is the first stage of the formation of cultural identity.
#2 The next step in the suit is the stage when one develops the tendency to know more about the already-known facts, i.e., one's desire to know the purpose of believing in a set of notions and the practice of activities which have been part of their overall culture.
The mind is now preparing to seek answers to age-old concepts which were inculcated in his mind too early. The person now desires to give a chance to his own ability to question and reason, before accepting things as they are, since centuries.
This is the step where rationality takes charge of things. This is the point when the mind is on a crossroad, uncertain to decide what would be his future course of things that he would follow.
#3 The final stage is the time when the mind and the person himself are clear in their vision. This is the time when the individual is not overpowered by unnecessary doubts regarding his actions and beliefs that he would be practicing in the long run.
Now, he is able to pick and reject things according to his own thought process and judgment capabilities. He is no longer a blind follower, but is in possession of a sound mind and a strong cultural identity.

Examples of Cultural Identity

Family System

The first teachings that one gets is from his family.
On this note, we have seen the vast differences that exist between the family system of the oriental culture and the occidental worlds. The former has a joint family culture, as opposed to the latter which practices a nuclear family culture. This factor shapes up one's identity according to the teachings one gets from his respective family system.

Choice of Gender Preference

Again, in this context, we have to look at the cultural differentiation of the West and the East. The West is liberal and acknowledges the freedom of choice of people and their own orientation.
However, we cannot see the same scenario in the Middle East, or perhaps even in many countries in Asia or Africa. This is again dependent of the cultural knowledge and ideals that are imparted to individuals since the very beginning.

Choice of Food Habits and Attire

On similar lines, we can view the diversity in the acceptance and practice of the basic needs of man.
These too are subject to change depending on one's presence in a particular nation. In this light again, we can see the Jews who still prefer wearing the traditional Jewish caps, and there are other Jews who don't consider it a mandatory practice in the first place.

Choice of Religion

This has led to the formation of religious tolerance.
Though the purpose of all religions is the same, that is to reach closer to God, the means are different, and so are one's practices and beliefs. Thus, forms an integral part of cultural identity.

Choice of Marital Status and Parenthood

Marriage is certainly a part of culture and tradition.
But the choice of one's marriage and parenthood are related in many ways, which are complex. In many countries, the concept of single motherhood is a regular way of life. In many other countries, on the other hand, the idea is no less than taboo; a social stigma that should be kept under wraps, let alone being practiced.
Studies profess that it is virtually unlikely that identity and culture may not coexist. Culture and identity grow and mature simultaneously in the lives of people, and eventually develop an identity based on all or part of the culture's postulates.