“Cultural Identity and the Diaspora” by Stuart Hall
Oxford dictionaries’ definition of diaspora is, “The dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland” (Oxford Dictionary 2015).
Before reading this article I was curious to find out what Stuart Hall’s outlook was on cultural identity. I soon found that he believes that identity is ever changing and building. He expresses “identity as a ‘production’ which is never complete” (Hall.S:222). However, he also states that “this view problematises the very authority and authenticity to which the term, ‘cultural identity’, lays claim” (Hall.S n.d.:222).
Hall then carries on to talk about the importance of context, “what we say is always ‘in context’, positioned” (Hall.S:222). The relevance is to us at that moment and that place, it is due to what has happened to us in the past. Hall explains to the reader his context, its his background for why he writes as he does.
Hall describes different ways of thinking about cultural identity. One way to approach it is to think “in terms of one, shared culture, a sort of collective one true self” (Hall.S:223). He further explains that it is this that people of diaspora should “bring to light and express” (Hall.S:223). Perhaps through my project I am bringing to light the Anglo Indian essence, the Anglo Indian shared culture.
Another way to approach cultural identity is to recognize that “as well as the many points of similarity, there are also critical points of deep and significant difference which constitute ‘what we really are’; or rather – since history has intervened- what we have become” (Hall.S: 225). I understand this as what we have experienced in life changes us, what context we have endured alters what we are “becoming as well as being” (Hall.S:225).
Can we understand where identity has formed or what it will form into? “The second view of cultural identity is much less familiar… identity does not proceed, in a straight, unbroken line, from some fixed origin, how are we to understand its formation?” (Hall.S: 226). There are two sides that Hall has explored, “the vector of similarity and continuity; and the vector of difference and rupture” (Hall.S:226). It is both of these sides that effect cultural identity. My Grandfather’s (Dudley Traish) identity was affected by both of these points, however, adapting his identity to his surroundings was a stronger influence.
Hall investigates the idea, that despite differences, people of diaspora have been through similar experiences, “unified” (Hall.S:227) by it, however, they have now been torn away from each other and their past.
This essay explores black Caribbean identities’; this has led me to ask what Anglo Indians have as a common history. Through research I have found it to be; working on the railways, Christianity, food, music, social class, and experiences of the Raj. Hall explores the presence of Africa, “languages were spoken, in the stories and tales told to children, in religious practices and beliefs, in the spiritual life, the arts, crafts, music and rhythms… This was-is- the ‘Africa’ that is alive and well in diaspora” (Hall.S:230). Having read this it has made me want to explore the stories of Anglo Indians that are also alive and well, despite the diaspora. Unlike Stuart Hall I am unable to find any cultural constancy, in the project I would like to capture memories for posterity.
Hall, S. (n.d.) Cultural Identity And Diaspora [online] 1st edn. Richard. L. W Clarke. available from <http://www.rlwclarke.net/Theory/SourcesPrimary/HallCulturalIdentityandDiaspora.pdf> [8 March 2015]
Oxford Dictionary, (2015) Diaspora – Definition Of Diaspora In English From The Oxford Dictionary [online] available from <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/diaspora> [8 March 2015]