Identity crisis and the crisis of place

On the Indian identity, Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen in The Argumentative Indian writes

It would be hard to claim that there is some exact, homogenous concept of Indian identity… we have to resist two unfounded but often implicitly invoked assumptions: (1) the presumption that we must have a single – or at least a principal and dominant – identity; and (2) the supposition that we ‘discover’ our identity with no room for any choice… Each of us invokes identities of various kinds in disparate contexts. The same person can be of Indian origin, a Parsee, a French citizen, a US resident, a woman, a poet, a vegetarian, an anthropologist, a university professor, a Christian, a bird watcher, and an avid believer in extraterrestrial life… Each of these collectivities, to all of which this person belongs, gives him or her a particular identity. They can all have relevance, depending on the context… we do have the opportunity to determine the relative weights we would like to attach to our different identities… (But) Our freedom in choosing our identity, in terms of the way others see us, can sometimes be extraordinarily limited… Choices of all kinds are always made within particular constraints… The point at issue is not whether any identity whatever can be chosen but whether we have choices over alternative identities or combinations of identities, and perhaps more importantly, whether we have some freedom in deciding what priority to give to the various identities that we may simultaneously have… Identity is thus a quintessentially plural concept… cannot be only a matter of discovery… are inescapably decisional and demand reason – not just recognition.

Sen’s analysis may as well speak for Filipinos’ identity “crisis”. Following his line of thought, perhaps the reason why Filipinos in general are in such a “crisis” is that we Filipinos fail to recognize and embrace our multiple identities; to reject our nationality in others, as when in a given business transaction we give preferential treatment to foreigners and poor treatment to fellow Filipinos (although it is the foreigner who will greet a Filipino stranger but a Filipino won’t greet another Filipino who’s a stranger). The rejection of our nationality and multiple cultural backgrounds is causing us to become political wanderers in our own homeland – we are in and of this country but not really. The crisis in us finds its extension in the chaotic forms of our villages, towns, and cities. Because we haven’t pinned down who we are – failing to make the choice – it’s difficult to direct the shape of our communities.


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