Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Identity and London

September 15th, 2009 · No Comments

Identity is a concept that has never been a favorite of mine. I find that it is used too often and inappropriately. I have heard identity used to encompass individuals, cities, cultures, even nations, but to me how can this one word and concept be that encompassing? For me it is not all-encompassing. It is something decided on an individual level. Qualities that compose one’s identity can be shared on various levels, such as city, culture, similar interests, et cetera. Trying to label a larger group as a single identity, in my opinion at least, is impossible. Similar characteristics in individual identities found in larger groups such as a religion or culture are labeled as an identity. Technically this is correct, that identity consists of characteristics A, B, and C, which are all found within members of the larger group. My issue with this is that there is more to their identities than this all encompassing group identity. This is where I feel as though identity changes from a useful individual concept into a misnomer.
Our time here in London has cemented my opinion concerning identity. The city is a vast collection of numerous people and as such thousands of identities. It is wrong to try and label the city or groups of individuals here under one identity. Especially when you consider how quickly identities can change and how quickly they can be reassigned or misconstrued. Appearance is one way that identities can be misconstrued or changed. If one dresses in a certain way than their identity is predetermined before they are even allowed to introduce themselves. Relying on identity of a group to understand the individuals of the group is not a sure way of actually understanding them. Identity is a way that we attempt to label individuals and groups. As we explored various parts of London including the Hindu Mandir and Sikh Gurdwara, I found that we discussed their cultures and ways of life instead of their identity in London. It was too hard to give them an identity, but we could discuss cultural differences, ways of life and attempts to transition into British society.
Identity is something that cannot be relied on to convey thoughts on London. It is nearly impossible to label one identity for an entire group. Identity is on an individual level. Exploring London has helped me further understand what used to be my confusion about identity.

Tags: Kimberly