Monday, June 19, 2006

Interpretations of Culture and Globalization part 3

In contrast, there seemed to be less of a global awareness in Kenya possibly because Kenya was in the earlier stages of a shift towards a larger identity. European colonial administrators left many local authorities and their jurisdictions intact, prolonging the local sense of identity, thereby dampening the development of a greater common identity.

Indeed, as mentioned earlier, the very concept of nationality, which is often tied up with culture, is an essential part of modernity and the modern human identity. Today, nationality is an essential component of the modern human identity. It is difficult to even consider anyone not having nationality, which for some people, may be as difficult to picture as someone not having a culture. Yet that is exactly what Benedict Anderson, in Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism did. In Imagined Communities, Anderson found that the very concept of a nation, and the corresponding nationality and nationalism, is a relatively modern idea. Anderson found “nation” to be an “imagined political community” that is both “inherently limited and sovereign.”

According to Anderson, nation-states and nationalism are cultural artifacts which came about through the intermingling of two historical forces, the religious community and the dynastic realm. With the rise of print capitalism and colonial rule, nationalism became “‘modular,’ capable of being transplanted, with varying degrees of self-consciousness, to a great variety of social terrains, to merge and be merged with a correspondingly wide variety of political and ideological constellations.”

Just as nationalist identies are a modern conception, so is the idea of “Africa” and “Africans.” In Kwame Anthony Appiah’s In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture, Appiah discusses the idea, origins and implications of Pan-Africanism. The idea of Africa as a singular cultural entity comes not from Africans in Africa, he argues, but rather from the African diaspora. In In My Father’s House, Appiah defined racialism as the idea that there are inheritable characteristics, including certain moral qualities, that allow classification in such a way that each race has traits and tendencies that is unshared by any other race. Furthermore, there are also differences between extrinsic and intrinsic racists. extrinsic racists believe that each race has their own specific moral qualities. Intrinsic racists believe that different races have different moral statuses that are dependent upon the moral status of other races. Ideas of race and its supposedly intrinsic/inherited qualities, both physical and moral, lent to a further association of race with an overly broad sense of “African” culture.

Such thinking is representative of a continuing tendency of Westerners to generalize from the experience and situations of New World blacks and to see race as a common identifier. In the New World,“ what bound those African-American and Afro-Caribbean Pan Africanists together was the partially African ancestry they shared.” Because they were identified by ancestry, the concept of racial solidarity was developed and delineated by black and white. This understanding of race was further reinforced by prominent Africans such as Nkrumah who studied at historically black educational institutions in the United States.

In the New World, race determined identity, an idea that was transferred on to the continent of Africa, despite its wildly varying peoples and terrains. While race may contribute to the shaping of a particular cultural identity and perceptions within certain societies, race does not by itself create a common culture. Again, what creates culture is a multiplicity of influences including the environment, gender, religion, etc.

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