Analysing Identity: Cross-Cultural, Societal and Clinical ...

Analysing Identity: Cross-Cultural, Societal and Clinical ...

Analysing Identity: Cross-Cultural, Societal and Clinical Contexts Peter Weinreich, University of Ulster (UUJ) The developmental primacy of primordialist over situationalist thinking about ethnic/national identity Rationale and Theory: Many researchers have commented on the tenacity of peoples sense of nationality or ethnicity, which, when felt to be challenged, is often accompanied by violent emotions that can have deadly consequences. Much research demonstrates that ethnicity and ethnic identity are not fixed, but can be redefined over time and can be newly constructed. However, some writers have been perplexed by the persistence of ethnicity in the absence of obvious gain, and by the affect that is associated with it.

Rationale and Theory Two stances on ethnicity and ethnic identity have been clearly delineated (Glazer & Moynihan, 1975): One emphasises the issue of ethnic persistence - a seemingly unchanging aspect of ethnicity, which persists down the generations the concept of primordialism (Shils, 1957; Geertz, 1963; Greely, 1974; Isaacs, 1975; Connor, 1978; Smith, 1981). The other highlights the situational features of ethnic revivalism - when a dormant forgotten ethnicity is apparently manipulated for instrumental gain the concept of situationalism (Hechter, 1974; Mitchell, 1974; Nagata, 1974; Epstein, 1978; Halsey, 1978; Okamura, 1981). Rationale and Theory A blind alley: The fault in conceptualising primordialism is that its essentialist connotations have led investigators to latch onto the notion of

an innate propensity, that is, it is itself viewed as the explanatory principle for the pervasive and long-lasting nature of ethnic identity. Rationale and Theory What requires explaining (the refocused problematic): The human propensity to think about ethnicity or nationality in primordialist terms, when historical evidence provides many counter examples of fluidity and change; The relationship between primordialism and situationalism. Rationale and Theory The propensity towards primordialist thinking is here explained as being the outcome of the socio-developmental psychology of the childs early

identifications with kith and kin. Young childrens early identifications with others close to them, such as parents and kin, are assumed to be emotionally intense and unquestioned. Rationale and Theory The child initially develops cognitions about the individuals ties with social and material surroundings as being of the essence of human existence imbued with strong affect. Such ties are experienced as being representative of those between kin and community within the locality - the soil - and having continuity in time down the generations, that is, they are interpreted as being primordial. Rationale and Theory If, then, nationality is understood as referring to the larger community in respect of such ties, then it too is

experienced as being primordial. However, on reflection and questioning of what is initially regarded as being the natural order of things, some people will develop more of a situationalist perspective. Rationale and Theory Those people who begin to adopt a more situationalist perspective develop an understanding of the historical complexities of nationality through their reappraisal of their initially held primordialist perspective. Nevertheless, given the developmental primacy of primordialist thinking - being only modulated by subsequent questionings - people will rarely hold to either wholly consistent situationalist beliefs or thoroughgoing primordialist ones. The developmental primacy of primordialist over situationalist thinking

about ethnic/national identity Definitions of primordialism and situationalism Theoretical postulates Method Evidence Definitions Primordialism is defined as a sentiment, or affect laden set of beliefs and discourses, about a perceived essential continuity from group ancestry to progeny (perceived kith and kin), located symbolically in a specific territory or place (which may or may not be the current place of the people concerned) (Weinreich, Bacova & Rougier, 1997; Weinreich, 1998). Definitions Situationalism is defined as a set of beliefs or discourses about the instrumental and socially

constructed nature of the group, in which interpretations and reinterpretations of history provide rationales justifying the legitimacy of a peoplehood (Weinreich, Bacova & Rougier, 1997; Weinreich, 1998). 9 theoretical postulates Postulate 1: Primordialists and situationalists political identifications. In circumstances where issues of nationality are highly salient, situationalists compared with primordialists will identify to a lesser extent with political groupings espousing intransigent conceptions of nationhood - the more intransigent the conception, the greater the difference. 9 theoretical postulates Postulate 2: Diversified socio-cultural ethos, individual cosmopolitanism and situationalism

Broadly speaking, those historical, cultural and personal circumstances that stimulate people to think of the complexities of nationhood - acknowledging fluidity and diversity - will generate a greater propensity towards situationalism. 9 theoretical postulates Postulate 5: Situationalists enhanced developmental change in identity Given their developing questioning stance on nationality, situationalists compared with primordialists will show greater perceived change in the ethnic or national aspect of their identities over time and greater modulation in their empathetic identifications with others who represent primordialist of situationalist perspectives on nationality. 9 theoretical postulates

Postulate 9: Developmental primacy of and situationalists residual resonance with primordialist sentiments Given the developmental primacy of primordialist thinking, situationalists will continue to residually express and respond to primordialist sentiments . Method Comparative cross-cultural study in Northern Ireland (students) and Slovakia (academics) Ethnic/national groups: Catholic-Irish, Protestant-British, Slovaks Customised identity instruments Analyses facilitated by the IDEX software Subgroups: primordial v situational criteria Participants 107 students of Psychology at UUJ (mean age 23 years, range 18 to 43).

64 faculty at the Slovak Academy of Sciences (mean age 37 years, range 24 to 64) Customised identity instruments 22 Entities, e.g., me as I am now me when I was about fifteen parents, national groups and political parties 18 Constructs, e.g., are/is able to adapt to being of any nationality (S) consider/s nationality is given forever (P); think/s that national identity can be a matter of choice (S) know/s that national identity resides in the very soil and essence of the land (P); Evidence: 1. Meaningful and practically useful definitions of primordialism and situationalism: Differentiation of identification with nationalist political parties (Postulate 1).

2. Primacy of primordialism; developmental progression in some people of situationalism: 15-year-old self to adult self (Postulate 5); In situationalists the obtrusion of inter-generational discourses about ancestors and descendents (Postulate 9) 3. Cultural, socio-historical and biographical contexts Cultural ethos of Ireland compared with Britain; Frequencies of primordialists and situationalists (Postlt. 2) Meaningful and practically useful definitions of primordialism and situationalism Evidence Differentiation of identification with nationalist political parties. Catholic Irish students identifications with, and evaluation of, the four political parties Ideal-identfn Contra-identfn Evaluation of

PRIM SIT PRIM SIT PRIM SIT Sinn Fein 0.58 0.33 **** 0.37 0.62****

0.26 -0.40**** SDLP 0.61 0.51 0.23 0.38** 0.31 0.07* DUP

0.38 0.26** 0.53 0.67*** -0.13 -0.48**** OUP 0.35 0.27 0.49 0.65***

-0.14 -0.38** **** p < 0.0001 *** p < 0.001 ** p < 0.01 * p <= 0.05 Protestant British students identifications with, and evaluation of, the four political parties Ideal-identfn Contra-identfn Evaluation of PRIM

SIT PRIM SIT PRIM Sinn Fein 0.37 0.22** 0.59 0.69 -0.18 -0.55*** SDLP

0.48 0.31* 0.29 0.49** 0.19 -0.17** DUP 0.46 0.29* 0.34 0.59**

0.20 -0.32**** OUP 0.42 0.29* 0.35 0.56* 0.14 -0.23** **** p < 0.0001 *** p < 0.001 ** p < 0.01 * p <= 0.05

SIT Primacy of primordialism; developmental progression in some people of situationalism: Evidence 15-year-old self to adult self CATHOLIC IRISH STUDENTS (ULSTER) Primordialists Situationalists Past Current % diff Past Current

% diff Self-evaluation* 0.428 0.640 +14.8 0.359 0.608 +18.3 Identity diffusn 0.334 0.334

0.0 0.392 0.334 -17.4 *% difference for self-evaluation takes into account the scale range for evaluation, being 1.00 to +1.00 PROTESTANT BRITISH STUDENTS (ULSTER) Primordialists Past Current Situationalists % diff Past Current

% diff Self-evaluation* 0.321 0.516 +14.8 0.375 0.645 +19.6 Identity diffusn 0.360 0.360

0.0 0.374 0.328 -12.3 SLOVAK ACADEMICS Primordialists Past Situationalists Current % diff Past Current

% diff Self-evaluation* 0.594 0.788 +12.2 0.288 0.735 +34.7 Identity diffusn 0.261 -10.0 0.406 0.310 -31.0

0.291 Primacy of primordialism; developmental progression in some people of situationalism: Evidence In situationalists the obtrusion of intergenerational discourses about ancestors and descendents Catholic Irish Primordialists Evaluative Dimensions of Identity FAVOURED POLE SP N Constructs used with Primordialist consensus 2 8 11 14 feel/s one's most important loyalty is to one's ancestral kin group 50

consider/s nationality is given forever 64 know/s that their descendants will continue the national group 50 think/s that national identity resides in the very soil and essence of the land 50 23 26 28 22 Constructs used with Situationalist consensus 9 think/s that most nations descend from mixed ancestries and races 12 accept/s people of different origins in their territory 18 think/s that national determination has potentially dangerous consequences 14 17 45 25 31 18 Catholic Irish Situationalists Evaluative Dimensions of Identity

FAVOURED POLE SP N Constructs used with Situationalist consensus 12 accept/s people of different origins in their territory 62 21 14 think/s that national identity can be a matter of choice 52 18 18 think/s that national determination has potentially dangerous consequences 53 17 Constructs used with Primordialist consensus 2 6 15 17 feel/s one's most important loyalty is to one's ancestral kin group believe/s national ties override divisions of wealth and social position do/es not doubt the genuineness of people's national feelings believe/s that nations develop from common ancestral experiences

64 9 -2 17 17 13 12 12 Cultural, socio-historical and biographical contexts Evidence Cultural ethos of Ireland compared with Britain Students identifications with, and evaluation of, the national groups Catholic Irish students Ideal-identfn

Contra-identfn Evaluation of PRIM SIT PRIM SIT PRIM Irish People 0.79 0.56**** 0.18 0.40**** 0.60

0.14**** British people 0.49 0.39* 0.44 0.49 0.05 -0.07 SIT Protestant British students Irish People

0.58 0.44* 0.37 0.46 0.18 -0.04* British people 0.60 0.46 0.31

0.42 0.24 0.03 Cultural, socio-historical and biographical contexts Evidence Frequencies of primordialists and situationalists. Ulster students Primordial Situational Unclass

Catholic Irish 29 (54.7%) 21 (39.6%) 3 (5.7%) 53 (100%) Protestant British 12 (36.4%) 21 (63.6%) 0 33 (100%) Mixed

allegiances 5 (23.8%) 16 (76.2%) 0 21 (100%) 46 (43.0%) 58 (54.2%) 3 (2.8%) 107(100%) Conclusions The analytic power of the concepts of primordialism and situationalism is clearly established. The evidence supports the explanation of highly

emotional grounding of primordial sentiments about ethnicity/nationality in the developmental processes of early identification with kith and kin, a community perceived to stretch over generations i.e., the primacy of primordial thinking about ethnicity/ nationality. Conclusions Some individuals will develop in time situationalist orientations to ethnicity/ nationality as a result of cosmopolitan experiences arising from mixed allegiances, a cultural ethos of enquiry into diversity, and a personal curiosity about the origins of people and nations. Obtrusion of primordial sentiments remains evident even in ideologically committed situationalists For further details, see Peter Weinreich, Viera Bacova and Nathalie Rougier, Chapter 3 in Analysing Identity: Cross-Cultural, Societal and Clinical Contexts

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