One of my high points in July was meeting up with the eloquent French champion of ePortfolio movement – Serge Ravet on his home turf in Burgundy. Serge is always good conversation (in French or English) and he has a way of using his Gallic charm and intellectual energy to deliver thought- provoking and sometimes quite outrageous statements. True to form he really hit a nerve this time half way through my first cup of coffee as he came out with some quite outrageous statements on the construction of identity.
Disagree and agree
He was making two related points, firstly that in defining individual’s identity we place far too much weight on considering a person’s past and indeed this is not ‘natural’ but a socially imposed view of identity. Secondly he was calling for greater emphasis on creation of one’s own identity .
The second is quite empowering and I concur with this, but having studied and witnessed the power of psychodynamic counselling to help people understand who they are and how they got there, I am quite sure that the creation of an identity is dependent on understanding of one’s past . Indeed, failing to take account of the past can be quite disasterous.
Identity is ‘relational’ to past, places and people.
Our English Word identity comes through the French identité which in turn comes from the Latin identum – meaning ‘sameness’ –indicating that identity is relational, that is we define our identity by our degree of sameness or difference to others and this process of definition is dynamic and ongoing. The work of Yi-Fu Tuan on Topophilia has also shown the power of long association with place as being a significant element in identity.
Sorry Serge, I enjoyed the second cup of coffee and the marmalade, but I just don’t buy your argument. In establishing our sense of identity we ignore our individual and collective pasts at our peril and we risk creating a half-baked distorted view of ourselves. Pour une fois je t’ecris dans ma langue maternelle – l’appretissage du quelle pendant les années 50 fait une partie de mon identite!
Identity goes global
Of course the complex modern world gives us multiple public identities and the digital manifestations of these identities will offer some reflection of their true identities and indeed the challenge for us all is to take control of these public manifestations of how we are seen online.
Maybe our next breakfast will take us on to this challenge? – I suggest a ‘Full English’ at the Tor Cafe in Cromford, Derbyshire!