Discussing identity, incidentally
Posted by worriedlebanese on 23/11/2009
Identity sprang up this weekend in three very different cyber-discussions: one with a psychologist, one with a philosopher and one with a sociologist. The contexts were obviously different, but in each of the conversations I was asked to disclose my identity as did my interlocutor, and discuss both identities. Not only did I catch myself disclosing different identities (truthfully and in good faith), but also using opposing arguments.
In the past, I had on several occasions discussed such a possibility arising, and given several examples to illustrate it: at university (an undergrad course) and in trainings (within an NGO). But experiencing it in such a short scope of time was extremely disturbing. It shakes one’s sense of self, and the value of one’s argumentation.
Context and setting is obviously central in discussing identity. And I was discussing this topic in four different settings: Lebanon, Israel, Belgium and France. Each setting has its own history in understanding this notion, its own definition, its own vocabulary and tradition in expressing it. So when you shift from one setting to another, you wonder if you’re still speaking the same “language” and you feel the need to “translate” it.
In the coming days, I will be discussing an initiative that a friend has pointed out to me: Laïque pride and I promised to say something useful about it. Before looking into the site, let’s glance at the expression “Laïque pride”. The first word, Laïque, is an “untranslatable french notion”, or so it is presented, that refers to French secularism (the ideology, not the actual system which is quite far from embodying the principle). With the word “pride” that follows the result reminds us of similar contemporary expressions such as Black pride, Gay pride, Welsh pride… in all these expressions, the word is used to trigger awareness, celebrate and empower a previously dominated group whose identity has been shamed in the past. With this simple expression of “laïque pride”, we are left with many explosive elements: secularism, foreign model, political protest, identity assertion… I’ll try to tackle all this tomorrow.