Cultural Identity Essay
‘Cultural identity’, according to Stuart Hall can be viewed through two different ways. The first position views ‘cultural identity’ in terms of one shared culture, reflecting typical historical experiences and shared cultural codes. Further, these cultural codes and common historical experiences ‘provide us, as ‘one people’, with stable, unchanging and continuous frames of reference and meaning'(Hall, p.393). The second view relies heavily on the individual’s experience of their culture. Through this view, culture is always changing, it is not static as claimed by the first definition.
‘Far from being eternally fixed in some essentialised past, they are subject to the continuous ‘play’ of history, culture and power’ (Hall, p.394).
We all write and speak from a particular place and time, from a history and a culture that is specific to us, in other words from a ‘position of enunciation’. The ‘black experience’ which Hall refers to as a commonly shared history and ideology, pendant on colour, is in reality something which relies heavily on individual experience, and each experience in this case is context positioned.
For example, the black experience of a Jamaican and an African living in Britain will be different even though they are both black.
Hall talks about the synthesis of cultures, of having an original culture that is dominated by a colonising culture and the result being an integration of the two into something completely new. This ‘mixture’ or ‘hybridity’ is the essence of what makes Jamaica what it is today. People can’t return to the mystical origins of an idealised time in history and ignore the influences of the colonial invasion.
His conclusion is that the purpose of the modern black cinema is to allow us to recognise and explore the different parts that go into constructing our ‘cultural identities’. ‘This is the vocation of modern black cinemas: by allowing us to see and recognise the different parts and histories of ourselves, to construct those points of identification, those positionalities we call in retrospect our ‘cultural identities”(Hall, p.402). Culture is socially transmitted and if not passed on, will be forgotten, and hence will cease to exist. Through the media, culture is constructed and by analysing these cultural identities we attempt to explain ourselves and our past, therefore continuing our existence. ‘A national culture is the whole body of efforts made by a people in the sphere of thought to describe, justify and praise the action through which that people has created itself and keeps itself in existence’ (Fanon, p.188).During the British occupation of Malta, the Maltese adopted many of the British customs but modified them to fit their own cultural norms, therefore creating a hybridity of the two. For example, the language use of the upper – class in Malta. It is English, but it has been altered enough, through the accent, to make it distinct and recognisable as a Maltese dialect of the English language. This shows the synthesis of the two cultures, combining to create a new form specific to the Maltese culture after British rule.