Chapter OneThe Identity project: Owning Identity? Introduction
The following chapter is concerned with some of the wide-ranging literature concerning identity and identity formation. Towards the end of the last century the focus of sociological attention had turned away from the study of mass mobilizations such as class towards the ‘analysis of symbolic challenges, collective identity and cultural politics’. (Martin, G. forthcoming). We will see in the later chapters how a Cornish identity exemplifies these three factors – symbolic changes, collective identity and cultural politics. To enable us to understand a Cornish identity and to further understand the dynamics of other marginal identities, such as Serbian, Croat or even the English, we need to be clear in regard to the type of identity one may wish to study. This chapter will concern itself with a discussion of issues surrounding (i) social identity, national identity, and nationalism (ii) identity, neo-tribalism, marginality and difference (iii) identity and postmodernism (iv) identity and Cornishness.
The received understanding of the root of the term ‘identity’ is that etymologically it refers to an ‘absolute sameness’ or an ‘individuality’ (Oxford English Dictionary, 1996). For sociological use this is clearly not satisfactory. It will be made clear below in the forthcoming sections that this concept of ‘identity’ cannot be easily confined to tight and exact definitions. One of the ways of understanding identity that could be helpful would be to consider how the changes in social relations, brought about through the impact of new technologies, have made identities more diffused and fragmented – fuzzier. Ladd tells us:
Inexact, fuzzy concepts are different from scientific concepts or other kinds of concepts that are susceptible of exact definition. Wittgenstein compares the attempt to define such concepts with the attempt to "draw a sharp picture corresponding to a blurred one...Anything - and nothing - is right” (Ladd, 1975:417).
Royce further argues that 'we must be content with elastic definitions that approximate what we wish to define' (Royce, 1982:17). This identity fuzziness is, it is argued, a reaction against what Feyarabend suggests is the ‘monotony and dullness’ (Feyarabend 1987:3) of the modern condition, which ‘Like an advancing fog sameness is engulfing the country’ (Feyarabend 1987:3). Thus it is right for us, as sociologists, to be both aware of such fuzziness and of the ‘false certainties imposed by categorical approaches to identity (Somers 1994:605). Somers is concerned with what she calls the 'tendency to conflate identities with what can often slide into fixed "essentialist" singular categories such as those of race, sex, or gender' (Somers, 1994:605). For the purposes of this thesis such essentialism will need to be explored. However, we cannot escape from the proposition that in any discussion of identity we have to be aware of the contradictions of human life and social interaction therein. We are thus faced with a dilemma - how can we explicate and understand this thing we call 'identity'?Preparing the Ground: The foundations of identity
Prior to the success of the Enlightenment Project the dominant (Western) way of describing the external world as part of the universe was with the benefit of faith. It was this total faith and the unflinching belief that all things were created by God which allowed people to understand the external world and themselves as part of it. Lovejoy talks of a 'great chain of being' (Lovejoy, 1936), a ranking system in which every living creature is placed in a hierarchy stretching from the lowest creature to God. Friedman argues that this structure dominated the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Friedman, 1994:45). The consequence of such a rigid (and unchanging) hierarchy was that the 'civilised human being' was seen to have a greater spiritual identity than the 'others' - that is the savage of the new worlds.
Consequently, many of the early philosophical ideas concerning identity were to do with personal identity that had religious overtones with little concern with the individual. Throughout the Middle Ages ‘the self’ was often defined in terms of its contractual relationships with the State. However, the Renaissance and the Reformation, and the rise of Protestant ideas such as these exemplified by Martin Luther re-directed attention to the individual and the self. ‘... [T]here was a dramatic increase in privacy, in the potential for aloneness' (Levin, 1992:16).
The rise of the individual led to new opportunities for many people. It was Descartes who was to cement together the older ideas of Augustine and this new self-conscious being. In early modern societies, saturated in Enlightenment ideas, identity was often defined in essentialist terms. It becomes somewhat ironic that the arch-architect of the Enlightenment Project should be the author of the view of personal identity that allies itself so closely with religious tract. Greenwood notes that,
[T]he Cartesian view is itself often identified as the account that would be offered by most laypersons, at least by those of some form of religious persuasion. (Greenwood, 1994:103).
It was Rousseau however, who moved away from these initial essentialist ideas which suggest that individuals have one authentic identity towards a position where he can propose that identity is a ‘continuous process of self-examination’ (Goldstein and Rayner 1994:370). It is this process of ‘reflexivity’, as we shall see, which destabilises ideas of the ‘essentialist’ identity which have permeated ideas and discussions of identity since this early modern period.
It is during this process of self-examination that the individual asks what Guibernau (1996:72) considers to be the ‘key question with regard to identity’. The ‘Who am I’? question allows for, according to Guibernau, a definition to be made which allows for ‘an interpretation of the self that establishes what and where the person is in both social and psychological terms’. (Guibernau, 1996:72)
We shall see below how individuals have been disembedded from the social relations of modernity where class, for example, was one of the major identity indicators. Class located us in our social position and linked us to the material life through the economic system. As Hall (1991) tells us, class provided us ‘with a code through which we read one another’ (p.45). Our class identities were fixed, we ‘knew our place’, where we lived, who we socialised with, where we went on holiday, even, according to Urry (1996), how we stood, spoke and even ate, was influenced by one’s class identity.Social Identity
Other social identities such as gender, race, age and so on were/are saturated with essentialist notions. Our gender and race for example are subjected to legal, medical/genetic, political and social categorisation and are underpinned by the ways in which the State wishes for those identities to be ‘allocated’ for their own bureaucratic needs. Such social identities also had functional roles within society. They limited and de-limited our behaviour as Urry (1996) notes and allowed for the identification of social groups within society.
Giddens (1991) notes that one’s social identity (be it class, age, race, gender and so on) influenced both our appearance and our demeanour.
Modes of facial adornment or dress, for example, have always been to some degree a means of individualisation; yet the extent to which this was either possible or desired was usually quite limited. (Giddens 1991:99)
Giddens (1991) quite firmly makes the link between dress and appearance and social identity. Thus dress and appearance become, what for Billig (1995) would be banal symbols of one’s social identity. As Giddens puts it ‘…dress remains a signalling device of gender, class position and occupational status’ (1991:99). The French writers such as Baudrillard and Barthes however, would want to move much further than Giddens and suggest that dress and demeanour are more of a sign or signifier that locates the wearer within a cultural milieu rather than within a closed category such as class or gender. Dress becomes a code or Baudrillardian sign which have four orders of signification. Thus dress, as a sign, can reflect basic reality, mask reality, mask the absence of reality or become simulacra, i.e. they have no relation to reality and are pure simulation.
So, for example, if we take a functional/utilitarian article of clothing such as a T-shirt, we may argue that this T-shirt may well be a ‘classless’ item of clothing unlike, say, a Barbour jacket. Nevertheless the T-shirt can still be used as a representational sign vehicle (as can the Barbour jacket). Thus the message carried in the emblem, words or pictures carried on the front of the T-shirt will stand for, mask, invent or simulate the social identity that the wearer wishes to be identified with. Thus T-shirts with trade union emblems, university slogans or advertising for a value commodity such as Jaguar cars, will represent as Eco (1979:135) suggests, an identity status claimed explicitly or implicitly by the wearer.
Post-modern influences have started to dismantle essentialist social structures and social identities such as class, race, gender and so on and allowed human beings to have more agency in how they define themselves. Bocock (1993:31) tells us that a ‘state of flux has replaced earlier forms of stable group membership’ such as class, religion, occupation, gender and so on. We have become more individualistic, more self-controlled and more reflective. Our identities now seem to be more influenced by intercultural references, fragments, instability and turmoil, global references and local intensifications rather than as a side effect to the basic social structures in which we live.
Thus, the older social identities, such as class, age, race and gender and so on are destabilised. This destabilisation is created by the way we as individuals locate ourselves within society rather than, as Gellner proposes, that society inculcated us with an identity such as class which was functional for that society. Thus, such essentialist identities, were in essence, sui generis to the individual involved. Identities, it is argued, have suffered fragmentation. As Bradley (1996:22) suggests, society has become more fluid, this involves not only the breaking up of all the social groupings, but ‘a loss of all sense of social belonging’ (Bradley 1996:22).
It is not so easy to talk of the individual or the self as an autonomous and coherent unity but instead we have come to understand that we are made up from and live our lives as a mass of contradictory fragments. (Moore, 1988, p.170)National Identity
National identity provides us with a good example of an identity which is sui generis to the individual and is functional for society. Gellner (1983:54) proposed that the main emphasis upon a nationalist identity was that it was ‘rooted in a certain kind of division of labour’. Thus, for Gellner, a nationalist identity was a function of the society in which it was expressed. It was embedded within a particular culture and was/is transmitted to new members who emotionally identified with these solidarity bonds.
However, it may be argued, that as nationalism re-emerges across the globe, rather than being described in essentialist terms and seen simply as a function of the social structure, as Gellner proposes, a nationalist identity may now be seen to be more of a bricolage of ideas about the individual: a bricolage which is more about ‘society and politics’ (Kedourie, 1986), about ‘collective immortality and dignity’ (Smith, 1999 and Anderson, 1991), or the ‘community as a whole’ (Anderson, 1991) whether it be imagined or not. As we shall see below, each of these approaches are dependent upon the myths, symbols and rituals that underpin their social significance. Consequently it behoves us to further understand how such myths, symbols and rituals gain current acceptance amongst groups where dominant identities have been for many years the way people understood who they were. This will be explored in greater depth in later chapters and in particular when we consider the cultural ‘work’ done by groups of people I call ‘cultural entrepreneurs’.
However, in order for us to understand more about how identity is thought about in these post-modern or late modern times, it is of some import that we consider, in some detail, current work on identity. We do this in order to understand the melange of concepts, theories and functionality that influence identity choices. It will be proposed and shown in later chapters that the cultural entrepreneurs trawl this rich bricolage of ideas to help create, maintain and explicate their ideas on identity. Consequently in the next section I will consider national identity and nationalism in more detail.
National Identity and Nationalism
‘Symbols and rituals are decisive factors in the creation of national identity’ (Guibernau, 1996:80). In the photographs above I have shown how the symbols of English/British nationalism/patriotism can be used in different ways, hence highlighting the difficulty one has in dealing with such ‘fuzzy concepts’. Image one shows an English football supporter, image two shows British National Front supporters at a Remembrance Day parade in 1999 and image three shows a British marine yomping towards Port Stanley during the Falklands War in 1982. These signs of Britishness/Englishness clearly mean different things to different people and yet there is a sense that a community is formed in the use of these same symbols.Nationalism is, according to Kedourie (1986
...a doctrine that holds that humanity is naturally divided into nations, that nations are known by certain characteristics that can be ascertained, and that the only legitimate type of government is national self government. (Kedourie 1986:12)
This notion is, however, dated, conceived during the Enlightenment by intellectuals who wanted to promote a new historicist vision of humanity where the new ideas of politics would overturn the role of religious dogma which had been used since St. Augustine as the key to individual and collective identity.
John Breuilly (1985) presents us in his book, Nationalism and the State, with a definition that avoids the danger of being too vague and all embracing and, among other things, draws attention to the modernity of nationalism. He argues that nationalist arguments are based upon three precepts:
a. There exists a nation with an explicit and peculiar character.
b. The interests and values of this nation take priority over all other interests and values.
c. The nation must be as independent as possible. This usually requires at least the attainment of political sovereignty. (John Breuilly,1985:3).
Breuilly’s concern here is with nationalism as a form of politics. This political activity is primarily opposition politics. The understanding of nationalism and the nationalist movements should be based on the relationship between the nationalist movement and the existing state. He tells us that:
Very broadly, a nationalist opposition can stand in one of three relationships to the existing state. It can seek to break away from it, to take it over and reform it, or to unite it with other states. (Breuilly 1985:11-12)
Consequently, nationalist movements are concerned with separation, reform or unification. The consequence for identity is that cultural and political activity becomes of primary importance for the individual. In these two concepts we can find two quite different and often competing conceptions of the nation. Each group will form their own distinctive organisations and have diverging political and cultural strategies.
Gellner in his book Nations and Nationalism (1983:6-7) makes this point quite well.
1. Two men are of the same nation if and only if they share the same culture, where culture in turn means a system of ideas and signs and associations and ways of behaving and communicating.
2. Two men are of the same nation if and only if they recognise each other as belonging to the same nation. In other words, nations maketh man; nations are the artefacts of men's convictions and loyalties and solidarities. A mere category of persons (say, occupants of a given territory, or speakers of a given language, for example) becomes a nation if and when the members of the category firmly recognise certain mutual rights and duties to each other in virtue of their shared membership of it. It is their recognition of each other as fellows of this kind which turns them into a nation and not the other shared attributes, whatever they might be, which separate that category from non- members. (pp. 6-7)
Gellner (1983) also points out that, in fact, nations, like states, are a contingency and not a universal necessity. Neither nations nor states exist at all times and in all circumstances. But nationalists tend to view the nation in Enlightenment terms – as existing as an organic entity, cemented in time as a continuously mobile community within a historical territorial homeland. These ideas conflict and create problems for the idea of a nationalist identity. Nationalist ideas rest on the notion of the homeland, ancient and unchanging, whereas, as Gellner (1983) points out, the idea, and indeed the fact of a nation or state change, as the recent events in the former Yugoslavia so potently underline.
As Gellner (1983) tells us the economic role of the state drives the political and cultural ideas that are transformed into nationalist identities.
So the economy needs both the new type of central culture and the central state: the culture needs the state; and the state probably needs the homogeneous branding of its flock (Gellner, 1983:140)
How that ‘branding’ is done is of significance for this thesis. Anderson (1983) points to the influence of communication and the rise of the media that allowed for the emergence of nations as imagined communities. For Anderson, nations are an illusion and it is only the face to face contact between individuals which sustains the community.
For Anderson then, the written language was the vehicle that invented nationalism (Anderson, 1983:122). Hall (1996) moves further and argues that Anderson’s (1983) imagined community could only be constructed and conveyed in discourse – and in particular in the narratives of the national culture. Thus nations become for Hall (1996:612) ‘systems of cultural representations’ – nations become symbolic communities. Indeed Smith (1999:15-16) tells us that the components of myth and symbol are particularly important in the creation of an identity and indeed are the ‘primary definers of the separate existence’ (Smith, 1999:15).
So nationalistic symbols and myths such as Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech of the Sixties, Margaret Thatcher's 'Our Culture will be Swamped' speech of the Seventies, and Winston Churchill's son's claim that ‘immigration has to be halted to defend the British way of life’, are what Stuart Hall refers to when he writes that ‘since 1979 lots of small Little England English people have been getting behind the barricades…when Europe begins to look like that hybrid, impure space of migrated peoples’ (Hall 1996: 134). These political narratives buy into the historical discourses about place and nation and influence the national identity. But crucially these narratives also underline the continuing hybridity and fragmentation of identity, for in the process of cultural re-trenchment the supporters of Thatcher and Powell et.al. look to a mythologised past. This mythologised past creates new notions of what it is to be English. The ‘new nationalism’ is found in the responses to a demonised ‘other’ and re-invents what England means and what constitutes Englishness.
Foucault (1974) tells us that his concept of discourse was one that was about how human beings understand themselves in our culture and how our shared meanings come to be produced in different periods. This position is important in allowing us to understand the current rise of an English national identity that in many ways is already subsuming the earlier British national identity. For example, the use of the English flag, the cross of St. George, has become a popular sight, especially at sports events where once the Union flag would have been flown.
Work by Marwick (1996:484) using the results of a 1994 ICM/Rowntree Trust poll, shows that among the three nations of Great Britain the sense of British identity was strongest among the English people surveyed. However, when these same people were asked about being English they demonstrated a weaker sense of being specifically English than did the Welsh respondents of being Welsh or the Scots of being Scottish. Oakland (1998:63) however, points out that there is resurgence in English nationalism particularly among teenagers that is not tied to traditional features. Work by Anne Leslie (1998) underlines this:
In my local inner-city market I asked a group of white teenagers loitering outside the ‘offie’ whether they felt English or British? “English, of course. I’m proud to be English!” replied one youth, his ears and nostrils pierced with large amounts of ironmongery. “I’m not British, I’m English!” Why? “Dunno, really. Just the way I am”. But one of his mates butted in with: “English, British, what’s the difference? I’m proud of being English, cos it’s the same thing, innit?” (Postscript, Summer 1998: 16-17)The re-creation of Englishness
In the time that I have spent researching Cornish identity, Scotland and Wales have achieved a devolved government and with it a sense of increased national identity. English nationalism has reached the stage where the cross of St George (ironically a demoted Turkish saint who probably never set foot on English soil) has become a more salient sign of nationality and partisanship than the Union Jack.
Without doubt it is now commonly accepted in sports, athletic circles and events that the English Cross represents England. The incorrect waving of the Union Flag, or Jack, for England is fast disappearing. Painting of faces with the English cross at recent world cup events was an expression of national sentiment, English national sentiment, by ordinary and working class people. (Boyd, 1999)
The very nature of Englishness and English identity has become a continuing theme in the mass media. The Sunday Times (March 19, 2000) ran a story entitled ‘Young Britons lose sense of Nation’ the paper was reporting on a poll they had carried out with over 1000 British school children. The results of this poll showed that two-thirds or 66 per cent thought of themselves as English while only one quarter or 24 per cent thought of themselves as British. Within this continuing contemporary debate, which in some quarters may be verging on a moral panic, myths are being created of an ancient English identity and an English nation-state that has its roots in the mists of history. Populist commentators such as Matthew Parris can feel comfortable enough with these myths to write:
Englishness exists. England’s senses of itself go back more than a thousand years…and unless England is recognised…then all hopes for a liberal, open, democratic and tolerant future are in danger (The Guardian February 24. 2000)
Since the devolution of Wales and Scotland there has been a flurry of books both academic and populist, such as Jeremy Paxman’s (1999) The English, Peter Hitchen’s (1999) The Abolition of Britain, Andrew Marr’s (2000) The Day Britain Died, Simon Heffer’s (1999) Nor Shall My Sword: The Reinvention of England, Tom Nairn’s (2000) After Britain: New Labour and the Return of Scotland and Adrian Hastings (1997) The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism to name a few. Each of these books, in its own way, reports upon the growth of English nationalism in Britain and the likely break up of the United Kingdom. These discussions are also impacted upon by continued articles in the press (for example see The Observer April 18, 1999 England expects a day to remember; The Guardian January 12, 2000 We can be English without falling into the racist trap) and by politicians such as the Right Honourable Jack Straw MP, the Home Secretary, who called for a celebration of the achievements of the English and the need to develop a ‘rounded sense of Englishness’.
Black (1998) argues that Englishness has a long history. And a number of periods can be selected as of particular formative importance, not least the transformation of Wessex into the Old English Monarchy in the tenth century. It is this sort of primordial historicism – a looking back to past glories - which may not strike a chord with the teenagers above, but which does in a very real way colour the narratives and discourse of English nationalism. Paradoxically a remote Turkish saint may become a provocative symbol of a land on which he never set foot. (Black 1998)
The flag of St. George becomes a very real symbol of Englishness for groups such as the teenagers above, who may well have come across it as a potent symbol of the England football club. Although these supporters in the photograph may not know it, they are artfully creating and reinforcing a discourse of nationality that has its roots in the mists of time. They are, for Foucault (1974), showing us how all social practices entail meaning and as Hall (1992:291) tells us, ‘meanings shape and influence what we do – our conduct - all practises have a discursive aspect’.
Thus the banal signs and symbols of nationalism become the lingua franca that underpins our conscious and unconscious identity. This is what Delanty (pace Billig, 1995) calls the ‘New Nationalism’ (Delanty 1996. SOC RES Online). Delanty’s thesis argues that:
Nationalism no longer appeals to ideology but to identity (Delanty, G. 1996:3)The New Nationalism
Consequently, ‘cultural nationalism’ as opposed to ‘political nationalism’ becomes the predominant form of national identity. Cultural nationalism for Delanty becomes the vehicle through which differences are preserved as opposed to hegemonic and cultural superiority. Actors consequently have agency in their choice of nationalism. This form of national identity is formed from the bottom up rather than the older structural forms of nationalism and identity noted above and as Delanty (1996:4) notes, came from the ‘programmatic designs of elite’s’ (p.4) and which were based upon the essentialist notions of the Enlightenment.
This new nationalism, according to Delanty (1996:6):
Is the result of a shift from state to society and expresses a sense of widespread alienation and frustration deriving from social exclusion and deep social divisions
Consequently, the new nationalism becomes a set of tenets that shuts other people out rather than simply subjugating them. It becomes a way of defining ‘us’ and ‘them’. To call oneself English, Welsh, Cornish or Apache is to draw a psychological as well as a physical boundary. ‘They’, the ‘foreigner’ are outside it and can be perceived as a threat to all that is held to be ‘holy’ and ‘pure’ within those boundaries.
This approach answers Guibernau's (1996:72) key question with regard to identity – the ‘Who am I’ question. The ‘new nationalism’ provides an interpretation of the self that allows the person to understand themselves in both social and psychological terms. Thus the ‘new nationalism’ rather than couching identity in fixed essentialist terms which are sui generis of that person, argues that one’s identity now reflects the changing and fragmented political and social situations one finds themselves in. Thus, Lesley’s youths (above) can reflexively be both British and English and see them both as different and the same.
Once again we can see how the uses of these categories succumb to the notion of fuzziness. Once the certainty and the fixicity of the Enlightenment concepts are lost, it starts to become difficult to categorise these concepts with any confidence. Clearly it becomes a difficult project to know Nations simply through the projection of generalised or certain characteristics that can be ascertained. It also becomes difficult to support the claim that the only legitimate type of government is national self-government – ideas challenged currently in the ‘War’ against Afghanistan, the Taliban and the Islamic terrorists responsible for the 11th September action. Belonging and Marginality
The ‘new’ nationalism reflects notions of ‘difference’ and ‘belonging’ that are being understood and used in social rather than political ways, albeit it in slightly fuzzy ways. Indeed, Anthony Cohen pointed us towards this more social understanding of ‘nationalism’, if we want to call it that, when he told us that:
Belonging implies very much more than merely having been born in the place. It suggests that one is an integral piece of the marvelously complicated fabric which constitutes the community; that one is a recipient of its proudly distinctive and consciously preserved culture – a repository of its traditions and values (Cohen, 1982: 21)
Local or marginal identities start to emerge as a compromise between those factors that may have a traditional and distinctive association with the individuals and the locality and those parts of the mélange which are imagined and/or constructed or re-constructed as symbolic identity devices. So, for example, as McCrone et al (1995) have shown, the Scots have recourse to a traditional past which has a distinctive association with places and geography, but the Scots identity is also influenced by Victorian constructions such as the tartan. These devices, however, may then be used as a bona-fide rationale to provide a form of cultural resistance to the threat of incorporation and assimilation into the larger order or may even, ironically, be used as symbols of accommodation into the larger order.
Local identity emerges as a compromise between a mix of elements of resistance to incorporation into a larger whole and of elements of accommodation to this larger order. For example, the Prince of Wales (who is also the Duke of Cornwall) may at one and the same time be seen as a symbol of assimilation or as a symbol or difference. It is these ambiguities of identity that we find in the margins such as Wales, Scotland and Cornwall
Indeed, Rob Shields (1991) tells us at the outset of his work on marginal locations that:
Marginal places, those towns and regions which have been ‘left behind’ in the modern race for progress, evoke both nostalgia and fascination (Rob Shields 1991:3)
Bernard Deacon, a Cornish academic, Cornish Bard and one of the Cornish ‘cultural entrepreneurs’, highlights this fascination and nostalgia for his community in a paper in which he reviews the ‘dominant discourse’ of a vanishing Cornwall, which include the three tropes of a ‘passionate Cornwall’, a ‘commodified Cornwall’ and a ‘domesticated Cornwall’ (Deacon 2000:2). This evocation of nostalgia and fascination is part of what Anderson (1983) calls the ‘imagined identity’, but in the margins it is underlined by a continual search for authenticity (an issue which is discussed at more length below).
But I would suggest that this search for authenticity in the margins is more to do with the resultant loss of authenticity through the imposition of ‘foreign’ culture as the hegemonic state replaced the older traditional cultures with the culture of the centre and of modernity. So the search for authenticity is more about ‘being true to the self’, of being a ‘real’ or ‘true’ person or, in the terms of this thesis, being a real or true Cornish person or Welsh person and so on (See Taylor, 1991 and Trilling 1972). As Shields tells us:
The social ‘Other’ of the marginal and of low culture is despised and reviled in the official discourse of dominant culture and central power while at the same time being constitutive of the imaginary and emotional repertoires of the dominant culture (Shields 1991:5)
This dichotomy, being at the same time despised and constitutive of the dominant culture, is highlighted by the fact that on the 2001 census Cornish people can now identify themselves as Cornish, rather than British. It is, according to Shields (1991:6), these ‘discourses on space’ which create a set of spatial metaphors and place images conveying notions of what that place ‘is’ or is ‘meant to be’. We saw above for example, Bernard Deacon construct various metaphors about the place that is Cornwall and in later chapters I will show in more detail how in the search for authenticity various metaphors are used to explain Cornwall. But it is these metaphors which Shields suggest become influential and work as directive images and ‘metaphors we live by’ (Shields 1991:47 and Lakoff and Johnson 1979 cited in Shields, 1991).
Furthermore, as Anderson (1983:15) tells us, ‘Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness but by the style in which they are imagined’. In the two extracts below we find Cornish people distinguishing their community.
Cornwall is not just another county – for historical and cultural reasons, Cornwall is different (Plymouth Evening Herald 11 April 2001 p.3)
Cornish people are different – they’re Celts and fiercely independent (Plymouth Evening Herald 11 April 2001 p.3)
The two Cornish people cited above in the newspaper reports, are presenting the references, the imaginations, of what for them it is to be Cornish. For one, it is for historical and cultural reasons and for the other a more essentialist position is taken in the call to Celticism. But crucially, both are presenting equal but competing notions of what it is to be Cornish, and as Hetherington tells us:
Identity is about both similarity and difference. It is about how subjects see themselves in representation and how they construct differences within that representation and between it and the representation of others. (Hetherington, 1998:15)
Elias examines this notion of difference in his classic sociology, The Established and the Outsiders (1965), where he shows in his study of ‘Winston Parva’ the divisions between an old-established group and a newer group of residents (the outsiders). This model can also be used to help us understand how differences are constructed in marginal places. Within the marginal space, the inhabitants (Elias would argue), would look upon themselves as ‘the ‘better’ people, as endowed with a kind of group charisma, with a specific virtue shared by all its members and lacked by the others’. (Elias, 1965:xvi). Thus, the Scots may cite ‘tartanry, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mary Queen of Scots, Bannockburn and Burns [to] provide a source of ready-made distinguishing characteristics from England’ (McCrone et al, 1995:7). (Nagel, 1995:950) provides us also with the example of North American tribes ‘re-traditionalising through the reclaiming of land taken from them by the white settlers and an ‘increasing willingness to claim and assert Indian ethnicity’.
Hall (1991:33) tells us that this reaffirmation of difference and concentration upon the local is a consequence of the universalising tendencies of modern society. Thus, when faced by difference in the form of a hegemonic centre who are driving the process of assimilation, the marginal groups will enter into what Hetherington (1998:18) calls ‘performative repertoires’. These repertoires would involve what Elias (1965:158) might indicate as showing the flag, fighting for cultural superiority, status and power, highlighting their standards and beliefs and using stigmatised beliefs about the outside group. On a global scale we can see these ‘performative repertoires’ played out day by day by the Taliban in Afghanistan and those Islamists from other countries who would support the Taliban. These disparate individuals from many countries who are joined together as a ‘nation’ of Islam see themselves as fighting the ‘assimilationist’ cultural advances of the west and in particular the United States.
Another reaction to the process of assimilation may well be ‘glocalization’ (See Bauman, 1998). This is where local culture, responding to the homogenising effects of the globalisation process, defends itself by involving the aggressive external ideas into their own defensive strategies. So, for example, facets of the dominant or globalising culture are assimilated into the local culture where they become in themselves part of the local defence and resistance to the forces of hegemony and globalisation. For example, the McDonald's hamburger chain that occupies villages throughout modern-day France has commandeered Asterix, the Gaul to promote its food as part of a marketing campaign launched yesterday that pushes aside the venerable clown, Ronald McDonald. Further, whereas in its early years in the United States, McDonald's imposed strict codes about food preparation and decor to send a message to consumers about the comforts of standardisation, in France and some other countries, wine is served. In India, Maharaja Macs are made of lamb, not beef, in deference to Hindu sensibilities. In South Korea, McDonald's serves kimchi burgers as a paean to the aromatic, fermented cabbage that is a staple of the country's diet.
The new French menu features seven new sandwiches tied into Asterix's adventures against the Romans in pre-Christian times in a movie being released in February. It isn't the fare you would find in suburban America: The McLutce, for example, has emmenthal cheese; the McAlexandrie features grilled eggplant and olive sauce. As Robertson (1995) tells us these changes are done strategically, for example when global marketers create local traditions on the assumption that difference sells (1995: 29). More generally, glocalization captures the way in which homogenisation and heterogenisation intertwine (Robertson, 1995:40). Thus, whereas powerful companies might 'customise' their product to local markets, glocalization operates in the opposite direction. Local actors select and modify elements from an array of global possibilities, thereby initiating some democratic and creative engagement between the local and the global. (Cohen and Kennedy, 2000:377)
Thus, these customised goods become banal symbols of identity. A McLutce burger in France or a kimchi burger in South Korea provides the public display of the domestic identity as opposed to the impinging American identity represented by a McDonald’s burger. Thus notions of what construes the particular in terms of identity as opposed to the general are reinforced. The identity of the outside group becomes a deviant identity and the stigma attached to such identities becomes an attribute that is deeply discrediting i.e. for the French there is a strong resistance to a harmonised culture based on American norms in culture, music, books, Hollywood movies and other forms of art and entertainment which are seen to be influences that devalue and spoil the home culture. In other words, a stigma is a characteristic, behaviour, or experience that may cause the person with the stigma to be rebuked by others such as those who would use Americanisations in everyday language in France. In order to protect France's cultural identity, the French government recently stepped in and enacted some laws aiming at restricting the broadcast of English speaking movies or songs and the use of English vocabulary. In general, outlawing the use of English words that have been incorporated into French in advertising and on TV in an effort to stem the tide of the English influence on language and ‘Americanisation’ in French culture.
Thus, the dominant identity, for example, American, is seen, from the point of view of the marginal group, the French, as a spoilt identity; thus anything American, including the American identity becomes as Goffman (1963) suggests, stigmatised. Haseler (1996) underlines this notion of a ‘spoilt identity’ suggesting that in England there is an identity crisis and that the national identity of the British is waning (Haseler, 1996:97). It is an identity weakened and spoiled by Britain’s comparative economic decline (Haseler, 1996:105) and when the cracks in national identity started showing themselves, so too did ‘the realities (and thus the real identities) of Britain, and of England, and of their peoples…begin to reveal themselves’ (Haseler 1996:105).
‘Englishness’ in the era of late modernity, was a false identity according to Haseler (1996) and as he suggests ‘official Englishness distorted the very identity of the people themselves’ (Haseler 1996:107). Whereas, as I will show below, the re-constructed identity, or those identities which are deemed to be marginal, are able to claim for themselves an older and more established place within the identity politic. Also as the social distance between the established marginal group and the ‘outside’ hegemonic group grows the individuals become, as Giddens (1992) suggests, ‘disembedded’ from the traditional social contexts and ways of describing their identity i.e. in terms of class, race, religion and so on and experience an increasing need for pure relationships - relationships characterised by intimacy and a mutual process of self disclosure.Leadership
The organisation of groups whereby the individual may fulfil the need for these pure relationships and intimacy may well be understood in terms of the ‘emotional community’ Hetherington (1994, 1998). Hetherington argues that Schmalenbach’s (1922) concept of the Bund allows for the ‘affectual identification with others that gives individuals the elective and expressive identity that they seek’ (Hetherington, 1998:83). In his work Hetherington evaluates:
…how expressive lifestyles might make use of a Bund as a charismatic form of sociation that provides a means of facilitating the development of expressive individual identities through a shared strongly emotional kind of identification with others. It is this type of organisation in which solidarity and a sense of moral election, something associated with the romantic structure of feeling and its subjectivised occasionalism, are expressed. (Hetherington, 1998:83-84)
One of the factors that Hetherington picks up on in his discussion of the Bund is the notion of Charisma. Charismatic leadership such as Weber understood it was the extraordinary quality of a person whereby he/she was thought to have supernatural or superhuman forces. This virtue could be found not only in magicians, sorcerers, and priests but also in political leaders. Weber also spoke of a type of ‘charismatic domination,’ which, like ‘rational’ and ‘traditional’ domination, based its legitimacy on particular arguments. ‘Charismatic’ leadership differed from the other two types in that its legitimacy originated in the people's recognition of the extraordinary virtues of their ruler. Weber defines charisma as an irrational type of domination that is not attached to any rules.
Hetherington (1998:93) however, suggests that this sort of understanding of the concept is less in keeping with the stance taken by those concerned with identity with the ‘so-called “new social movements”’. Hetherington (ibid.) suggests that the role of charismatic leadership is generalised throughout the group through a process of diffusion and that the Bund would not evidence any particular leaders. Nevertheless, Hetherington is aware that such a group ‘cannot exist without some form of centrality’ (ibid.). And he suggests that it is the organisational form itself to which the individuals submit themselves rather than the will of an individual leader (ibid. my italics).
One commits to the group one has joined and its core values rather than to a person. (Hetherington, 1998:93)
However, it is the issue of the ‘core values’ that must exercise us here. When we talk about the ‘core values’ of a group, we note as Hetherington (1998:115) does, that ‘every society, no matter how complex, has a centre of values and beliefs’ (Shils, 1975 cited in Hetherington ibid.). However, Hetherington does not pursue the epistemology of the values that would, for instance, direct the social organisation of his notion of the Bund. Althusser ‘s (1971) argument tells us that organisations generate systems of ideas and values, which we as individuals believe (or don't believe) and which parallels Hetherington's (1998) argument above. For Althusser these organisations are Ideological State Apparatuses, that is the schools, religions, the family, legal systems, politics, arts, sports, etc., from where the attitudes, values and beliefs of the hegemonic group are inculcated into a population as a dominant ideology. Consequently, we may ask, from whence do the values and ideas of the Bund come?
I would argue that, unlike Hetherington, who seems to be suggesting that within the Bund charisma (which I take to loosely mean ‘leadership’) is dispersed to all members, I would suggest that charisma may well be dispersed to all the members but some members may, in Orwellian terms, be ‘more equal than others’. While not being recognised in the Weberian sense as ‘leaders’ they are, however, employed in the creation and in the policing of the group’s values and beliefs. It is these people that I call ‘cultural entrepreneurs’ and it is this group of cultural leaders that this thesis focuses upon. The recognition of the ‘cultural entrepreneurs’ as a group of people imbibed with slightly more charisma than the rest of the group, creating the rules, values and ideas, but not upsetting the stability of the group is, I would argue, the solution to Hetherington’s difficulty re the Bund. He tells us in his description of the Bund (points 4 and 5 p.98):
4. The cohesion of the group is maintained through forms of identification often organised around some mode of charismatic identification. This is often expressed through the performance of one’s commitment to the group’s goals and through identification with the ethics of aesthetics and tribal symbols.
5. Bunde are self-enclosed and produce a code of practices and totemic symbols which serve as the basis for identification (ibid. p.98)
Tribal symbols, totemic symbols, attitudes, values and beliefs – ideologies - do not exist in a vacuum and appear to people in mysterious and mystical ways, they are constructed and created by human beings within particular contexts and as a reaction to particular events or occasions. Hetherington (1998) does pick up on this when quoting Shils (1975 cited in Hetherington:115) who argued that the values and beliefs central to any society, no matter how complex, were ‘affirmed by elite’s that took on the sacred quality of authority’ (Shills 1975:4 cited in ibid.).
Nevertheless, Hetherington also emphasises the expressive and emotional aspect of the Bund. He underlines the notion that this organisational form ‘has more to do with a desire to share a sense of commitment and belonging with others who are seekers after some kind of expressive alternative to the conditions of modern life’ (Hetherington 1998:99).
These notions of ‘belonging’ and ‘marginality’ work to provide the individual with the impetus to search out others who share similar psychological, sociological and geographical aspects of their lived experience. In the next section we look at how the concept of the Bund has been developed to provide a more detailed understanding of the post-modern influence of group and individual identity. The debate concerning neo-tribes reflect the search for more real experiences - for a real, more authentic identity and more fully explores the notion of fragmentation. Neo-tribes are fuzzier, a place where the individual may inhabit a real physical space or, with no fear of dissociation, virtual and/or mental spaces but synergy with the group is still maintained.Neo Tribalism
The French writer Michel Maffesoli also picks up on similar themes in his work The Time of the Tribes (1996). In this work Maffesoli, according to Shields in the foreword, ‘develops the concept of neo-tribalism beyond Schmalenbach’s ‘Bund’.’ The concept of `neo-tribalism' is central to Maffesoli's (1996) discussion of post-modern society. Maffesoli is intrigued by the paradox found in a modern society where there is a ‘constant interplay between the growing massification and the development of micro-groups’ which he calls ‘tribes’. (1996:6) He tells us that the ‘people’ are no longer the subject of historical movement as perhaps Marx would argue, but are now subject to the forces of ‘disindividuation’ and a new emphasis upon the roles that each person plays within the tribe.
The form of the ‘neo-tribe’ is one that is defined by its fragmentation, whereas the traditional ‘tribe’ is a form of association that is defined by its high levels of homogeneity. Maffesoli points out that such neo-tribes are fluid and organic in their make up, their masses are unstable and the people are free to move between tribes. It is this poly-dimensionality of the lived experience – ‘sociality’ – which has increasingly surpassed more formal, abstract and fixed positions – the ‘social’ - as the organisational basis of everyday life. Thus ‘sociality’ is defined as a ‘succession of ambiance’s, feelings and emotions’ (Maffesoli, 1996:11).
People are gathering together in their search for community and belonging. However, neo-tribalism is characterised by its fluidity, occasional gatherings and dispersal (Maffesoli, 1996:76). Nevertheless, the tribe is, according to Maffesoli, a community of ideas that goes beyond the individuals and the practices involved (ibid:79) but which is dependent upon shared feeling. It is the ‘undirected’ being together which is creating new lifestyles. Sociality is organic; it is inherent in the social interactions of the everyday. Maffesoli even goes as far as to say that we are born with knowledge of this sociality. Because sociality relies on intrinsic order rather than that imposed from above, the human being must perform social roles. To that end, personhood is required from each human and there is no room for individualism. The tension between the social and sociality is not new, but has existed always, with each one being more or less prominent depending on the character of the epoch. Indeed, sociality is the foundation of the social. The structures of the social become 'saturated' and collapse but sociality is always there. When the social collapses, as can be seen in Late Modernity, sociality re-emerges.
Maffesoli, however, is much clearer on how such tribes are organised. Looking to the religious models as exemplified by sociologists such as Durkheim and Weber he tries to show us the ‘logic of social attraction’ (ibid. p.82). In a discussion of small sects he tells us that these small groups are able to
…restore structurally the symbolic power. Step by step, one can see a mystical network being built, carefully yet solidly connected, leading one to speak of a cultural resurgence in social life (Maffesoli , 1996:83).
Still using the sect example, Maffesoli also indicates how such groups are led. While noting that in general the organisation of the group is everybody’s affair, he does deny that the group is a democratic system, rather leadership is more hierarchical and organic (Maffesoli, 1996:84) and ‘every single person is made indispensable to the group’ (ibid.). But he also argues that there are leaders, albeit that their position is fragile and in some cases short-lived.
There may well be charismatic leaders and various gurus on the scene; however, the fact that their powers are not based upon rational competence…renders them fragile and does not favour their longevity (Maffesoli, 1996:84)
The group itself then becomes experienced and organised through encounters with others, and with the situations and experiences within various groups to which each individual belongs (Maffesoli, 1996:88). This is, according to Maffesoli, based upon a ‘nostalgia for community’ (ibid.) which is simply a consequence of modernity draining the possibilities of social relationships of their ‘real’ content (Maffesoli, 1996:89). For Maffesoli, it is the re-creation of content and the creation of such groups and tribes, which is an act of creativity par excellence. For in that act of creation there arises a feeling of belonging to a symbolic territory; whether that may be an actual physical space or a mental space each carries the same weight, as does the creation of a communal ideology, which shapes the way the groups acts and feels.
Thus the post-modern or 'neo-tribes' are temporary, internally diverse, unstable, and organised to fulfil the desire to be together. For Maffesoli, neo-tribes reflect a populist movement tending toward rediscovering 'mutual aid, conviviality, commensality [and] professional support' (1996:69). They are 'less disposed to master the world, nature and society than collectively to achieve societies founded above all on quality of life' (ibid:62). Thus as Shields tells us
The tribus are more than a residual category of social life. They are the central feature and key social fact of our own experience of everyday living…. they have strong powers of integration and inclusion, of group solidarity. These powers are displayed and actualized in initiatory rituals and stages of membership…the members of the tribus are marked by it, wearing particular types of dress, exhibiting group-specific styles of adornment and espousing the shared values and ideals of the collectivity (Shields Foreword to Maffesoli 1996:ix-xii)The sections above have moved us from a discussion which started with the notion that identity was somehow an essential part of us, we were part of God’s plan and we were formed in God’s image. Modern Enlightenment ideas separated man from God and just as effectively connected him/her to the new understanding of the economic system. The economic identity played a central part in how a person understood who or what they were. These modern ideas were fixed and immutable. One’s class, gender, race and so on established once and for all our life chances, our histories and our futures.
As the dominant grand narratives such as Marxism failed to provide useful tools for the understanding of cultural life, and were in many ways eclipsed by the critical analysis of feminism (Rojeck and Turner, 2000: 635), analysts turned their attention to questions of marginality, difference and identity. In the next section I discuss the influence of post-modern writers on the thinking concerning identity.Postmodernism and Identity
It may not be easy to live through this time of loosening structures of belief, where the loyalty of the masses to the existing order can no longer be taken for granted, and where the deferential attitude of individuals to the social relations in which they take part can no longer be guaranteed (Moscovici, 1990:4).
Moscovici (1990) here indicates that at the fin de siecle there is dissatisfaction in regards to identity. Touraine (1984:4) notes further that ‘At the beginning of the 1980’s, there no longer existed a dominant representation of social life’. There has been a recognition by post-modernist thinkers and writers such as these that the Enlightenment rationalising project has created a ‘disenchantment of the world' (Gerth & C. Wright Mills. 1948:51). This disenchantment has, Maffesoli (1996) argues (as we have seen above), led to the development of micro-groups – tribes - as a reaction to the massification of modern society, a fragmenting of society into what Weber calls ‘elective affinity groups’ (Gerth & C. Wright Mills. 1948:62-63). The post-modernist writers are arguing that the dominant representations, the older essentialist, modernist ways of understanding ourselves in terms of the sociological categories of nationality, class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion and age are being challenged. It is a challenge to what Baudrillard calls a ‘profound monotony’, a ‘postulation uniforme’...‘the bliss of the consuming masses (Baudrillard, 1988:11). Lash and Urry (1994) note that this modern rejection of modernity will involve:
…a reflexive creation and invention of the sort of symbol-systems that will give collective solidarity to movements (Lash & Urry, 1994:50).
Dunn (1991) explains further that it is modernising capitalism itself that creates the conditions for such a challenge, that historically marginalised groups come to demand changes in the system, specifically in the form of disruptive claims to status and power (Dunn, 1991:114). Dunn (1994) goes on to explain that within this new epoch in the history of capitalism, that of commodification and consumerism, we will find ‘numerous social and cultural movements challenging modernist dichotomies (hierarchical oppositions) in the name of community, tradition and self-determination' (Dunn, 1991:115)
This theme is taken up by Mestrovic in his book The Balkanization of the West (1994). In warning us that the new century will see a time which is dominated by the break up of societies into ethnicities, religions and metaphorical ethnicity’s, he writes:
If Western Enlightenment narratives are no longer viable because they promote, oppression, ethnocentrism, colonialism, imperialism and other terrible things [such as boredom and monotony]; and if anti-Enlightenment phenomena such as nationalism and cultural identity as well as cultural relativism are going to grow stronger as these Enlightenment narratives wane; then present-day or future intellectuals will have to make a serious and sobering search for non-modernist bases for social order (Mestrovic, 1994:72).
Consequently, in this challenge to the modernist order and as a reaction to the monotony, domination, anomie and alienation the modern epoch maintains, attention is shifted towards a more reflexive understanding of oneself and one’s social affiliations. It is a move to the edges and the peripheralities, a re-thinking of the margins and the borders, (Hutcheon, 1988:58) a move away from the centralisation with its associated concerns on origin and oneness (Said, 1975; Rajchman, 1985). Postmodernism challenges essentialism and globalisation and turns itself towards an assertion of difference (Friedman, 1994), togetherness or solidarity (Maffesoli, 1996:72), creolization (Hannerz, 1987; 1992) and heterogeneity. The focus of attention becomes the local, the regional, the non-totalizing (Foucault, 1977). As Hutcheon (1988) remarks:
When the center starts to give way to the margins.... totalizing universalization begins to self-deconstruct [into a] flux of contextualized identities...this [is an] assertion of identity through difference and specificity...(p.51).
The unifying centre, the hegemonic source of unified identities, unified values, the modernist State are contested through the ‘valuing of the local and peripheral' (ibid. p.61):
...not New York or London or Toronto, but William Kennedy’s Albany, Graham Swift’s fens country, Robert Kroetsch’s Canadian West (Hutcheon 1988:61)
It is a valuing of the local (Vink, 1993.) and the peripheral (Payton, 1989), a recognition of difference (Harvey et. al, 1986), of the challenge to the hegemonic culture (Burton, 1997), a ‘stepping back into history’ in order to (re)-create an identity.
Modernity changes and destroys places, landscapes and communities (Deacon 1996:99). Inauthenticity swamps the authentic in the form of heritage, managed histories and illusion. Hegemonic culture invades museums and replaces the local with the general, and re-focuses attention away from the peripheries to the centre. Rural experiences and history are tied up into the concepts of 'quaintness' and are commodified into 'heritage'. Centres of industry, once hives of activity, are now romanticised and turned into tourist attractions. An example of this is Morwellham Quay in Cornwall where one can visit 'The Ship' which is 'an authentic inn with none of the false Victoriana' (advert in Okehampton Times April 13. 2000). Modernity is constantly adding to the inauthentic as the 'true origins', and 'roots' of things are overlain by the modern (Deacon 1996:99), but as the local contests the centre, as we recognise difference, challenge hegemony and step back into history, we also search out the authentic, the original and unique facets of our claim to provide for ourselves the roots for which we yearn - to locate ourselves outside the faceless masses and the Baudrillardian monotonous styles of living forced upon us by modernity.
However, Lash and Friedman (1992) question the dynamics of post-modern identity change and suggest that in fact:
postmodernism annuls movement and change…and posits a mediascape, an ‘astral empire of signs’ whose powers of social control over individuals and collectivities is so absolute that no change is possible (Lash and Friedman 1992:1)
Lash and Friedman (1992) see the ‘neo-tribal paradise’ – as a place where spaces of identity are constructed. A place where we can experiment with who we are, a place where how and what we do are unconstrained, and ultimately, as a place that suffocates the temporal dimension and provides us with no future.
Kellner (1992), however, argues rather than there being no change possible as Lash and Friedman suggest, the post-modern mediascape allows for identity to be ‘subject to new determinations and new forces while offering as well new possibilities, styles, models and forms [which] provide new openings to restructure one’s identity’ (Kellner 1992:174). So in a post-modern society it is popular culture which is the driving force of identity change. It is from the sometimes-overbearing wealth of images, scenes, stories and texts from which we can assume models and roles and change them at will, and, depending upon the context, introduce appropriate and inappropriate forms of behaviours into our repertoire, changes to our styles and play with different fashions. Media images, Kellner suggests, provides us with ‘subtle enticements to emulate and identify with certain subject positions while avoiding others’ (Kellner 1992:174).
For example at the end of World War II the media reinforced the value placed on traditional ideals of masculinity and femininity. George Mosse (1996:181) recalls how, for men in Western Europe, 'a consensus emerged that the torn fabric of society must be mended as soon as possible, and as part of this new traditionalism, prosaic, normative masculinity was reaffirmed… in advertisements, film, and literature: clean-cut and fit' (1996:181). Hence, 'typically men are portrayed as active, adventurous, powerful, sexually aggressive, and largely uninvolved in human relationships' (Wood, 1994:235).
At the same time, women were suffering their own identity crisis. Prior to the war, feminists had been articulating the idea of women having their own plans and careers; but soon after 1945, women were made to feel guilty by warnings of the 'dangerous consequences to the home' that had begun to circulate (Millum, 1975:73). Thus the messages circulating in the media would underline that ‘The highest good is keeping house and raising children' (Millum, 1975:74).
The motivation behind this mystique emerged (in part) because of a sense of social crisis, but it was exploited and reinforced (and possibly created) as a result of the 1950s' boom in the economy - particularly in the production of domestic goods, such as washing machines and convenience foods. It was presupposed that women would be purchasing such goods for the household, thus advertising 'was calculated to focus attention on their domestic role, reinforce home values and perpetuate the belief that success as a woman, wife and mother could be purchased for the price of a jar of cold cream, a bottle of cough syrup, or a packet of instant cake-mix' (Cynthia White, cited in Winship, 1980:7).
Post-modern media however, rather than emphasise the essentialist themes of masculinity and femininity focus on 'being different' - individuality is what is in fashion. Discussing the relationship between masculinity and popular culture, Mort notes that 'What's now cool is not the assertion of a fixed masculine identity, but a self-conscious assemblage of style… stressing the plurality of signification' (Mort, 1988:204-205). Thus, we can propose that when individuals borrow from gender-ambivalent fashion/advertising imagery, the emphasis (and degree of acceptance) is on signifying rather than being. Advertising, fashion and consumer culture all incorporate an ideology of commodity fetishism which has led individuals to believe that they can 'define themselves through the messages they transmit to others through the goods and practices that they possess and display' (Warde, 1994:878). As a result, 'appearance replaces essence' and 'artificiality substitutes for the genuine development of self'’ (Giddens, 1991:197). Consequently as Woodward argues:
Representation as a cultural process establishes individual and collective identities, and symbolic systems provide possible answers to the questions: who am I?; what could I be?; who do I want to be?’ (Woodward, 1998:14).Politics of Difference
The post-modernist ideas about identity considered above tell us that appearance has replaced essence and that identities are based upon representations. Nevertheless the issues around post-modern identity remain fuzzy and this fuzziness simply works to re-enforce the post-modern notion of there being an ‘identity crisis’ in the West. Social change, globalisation, the emphasis on representation, the impact of the mass media, the aestheticization of everyday life (Featherstone, 1992), schizophrenia (Jameson 1983) and the decentering of the subject, are but a few of the concepts bandied about by various theorists and writers as the reason for such an identity crisis.
Social movement theory also adds to the fuzziness of the debate as both essentialist and non-essentialist arguments are used to further the debate on identity politics. Also adding to the fuzziness is the plethora of ideas about identity and groups. Are the new social movements similar to Schmalenbach’s Bund or to Mafessoli’s tribes? Or are they collective identity formations (Seidman 1993, Epstein 1994) where:
The shared oppression, the movements have forcefully claimed, is the denial of the freedoms and the opportunities to actualise the self. In this ethnic/essentialist politic, clear categories of collective identity are necessary for resistance and political gain. (Gamson 1995:391)
A deeper concern for one’s identity and how it is produced and contested is central to the development of the identity within the new social movements. It is a concern that places identity at the centre of political struggle. The post-war era has seen a plethora of ‘new’ social movements from the civil rights movements in the United States through the Women’s Movement of the 1960s and 70s, anti-colonial nationalistic movements in the Third World, the gay movement and new age travellers, to name a few. The key factor in all of these movements is the declaration and the affirmation of what are deemed to be excluded identities.
This focus on ‘difference’ may well, we could argue, work now more or less as the classic notion of ‘identity’ did before. By this I mean that the notion of ‘difference’ contains within it claims for ‘authenticity’ and thus subsumes the argument in essentialist terms as did the ‘classic’ notions of identity such as class, race and so on. It is the notion that persons in similar social groups who have similar life experiences will act together on the basis of their common attributes, rather than on rational interest or learned values. Daly (1978) for example underlines the essentialism of the women’s movement where the claims made by women involved in the movement emphasise the ‘uniqueness’ of their biology which they claimed made them more caring and peaceful than men, where even appeals to history are defended by the claim that ‘herstory’ is of a different category to ‘history’. (Jeffreys 1985). Gay theory also challenges the notion that homosexuality is abnormal or immoral through the use of essentialist claims that a gay identity is a fact simply because it is biologically determined rather than a life style choice.
Notwithstanding such essentialist claims, new social movement theory is not immune from the challenge of fuzziness. For example, some of the new social movements, including the women’s movement, use non-essentialist categories to explain their position. Weeks (1994) writes about the ‘fluidity’ of identities composed of different components that react to and are constructed/reconstructed by the prevailing cultural conditions. Thornton (1995:167) notes that youth subcultures appropriate various aspects of popular political rhetoric. In the same way as they sample music it can be suggested that these youth subcultures sample the rhetoric of rights, freedom, equality and unity so far as it suits them to make their cultures and their identities more meaningful.
Thus, the possibilities for identity are endless as the struggle to articulate any particular identity is bound up in the complex dichotomy of biological categories and essentialism, the construction of opposites and difference and the sampling of cultures, lifestyles and political rhetoric. As Hetherington notes:
New social movements, in all their overlapping and networked diversity, have a multiplicity of concerns with issues associated with the politics of identity. These can take the form of challenging social identities and the ways that they are used as labels to denote something, for example, woman, Black, ethnic, disabled and so on: more the ways that what is positively connotated by those terms is often ignored by society; or they can challenge new and unwelcome connotations that are thought to exist. (Hetherington, 1998:38)
The construction of opposites and differences can only be organised through what Durkheim would have called the collective consciousness, i.e. ‘only universally shared, actively practised, vivid symbols could constrain individual passions and impose a social reality on individual consciousness’ (Swidler 1995: 32). Melucci (1995:44-45) considers how this collective consciousness is involved in the creation of a collective identity. He presents us with three points. The first is that a collective identity is created around rituals, practices, cultural artefacts and so on which encourage the individual to invest some of themselves in the group. Once the investment is made the individual then reaps a reward. This reward may simply be the emotional notion of ‘belonging’ or may well be the award of status within the group.
The second point that Melucci makes is that collective identity is a process. The collective identity is a network of relationships, communications, interactions and negotiations. These activities help to form the organisation within the group and provide models of leadership. Thirdly, Melucci suggests that there is a degree of emotional investment to the group which allows for the creation of a common purpose – a unity of action. Melucci (1995:45) tells us that ‘passions and feelings, love and hate, faith and fear are all part of a body acting collectively’
The collective identity of a new social movement creates the conditions that ensure the continuity of the group over time. However, this does raise the question, how ‘new’ are ‘new social movements’? We have already noted Schmalenbach's concept of the Bund and mentioned Durkheim’s notion of the collective consciousness. It is clear that identities were formed within early social movements such as the working class movement (see Calhoun 1995). Women were active in gender politics well before the 1960s, for example the Suffragette Movement, and we may well want to argue that movements such as the Levellers in the 17th century created an identity which was concerned with difference and opposites. It would seem, however, that the 'old’ social movements might be defined by their reference to the economic conditions of life and their allegiances to traditional political forces, whereas the ‘new’ social movement places the emphasis on cultural life and the symbolic nature of action.
What is clear is that the identity of the individual/group within any social movement, be it ‘old’ or ‘new’, is constructed from identity-based narratives, and that those narratives will vary within a common historical frame. This understanding is crucial to any theory of social movement formation. However, the debate about social movement theory is wide with many different strands. Some writers question the newness of new social movements (Tarrow, 1994; Koopmans, 1995), others as noted above are emphasising the role of identity in previous, older movements (Calhoun, 1993). Some writers stress the persistent role of material issues and concerns in the contemporary ‘new’ movements (Bartholomew and Mayer, 1992; Martin, 1998), while others are claiming the persistent relevance of class (Heath et al., 1991). Jordan and Maloney, (1997) are conversely even denying any relevance whatsoever to new politics and new social movements theories.
Hetherington (1998) also recognises that the term ‘new social movement’ is a problematic one (Hetherington, 1998:29) but he is more concerned with the ‘new configurations…around issues of identity and the politics of identity’ (Hetherington, 1998:30) than with the novelty of the concept. He goes on to suggest that commentators should focus on the ‘newness of the social conjuncture that makes these questions of identity significant’ (Hetherington, 1998:31). Thus the new theories of political identity found within new social movement theory stress ‘expressive goals of self-realization’ (Pizzorno 1978, 1985) while they attempt to positively restore previously devalued differences (Chodorow 1978, Elshtain 1981). The focus of attention has shifted from the universal to the particularistic – from the social agent to the concrete person (Somers and Gibson 1994).Cornish Identity
As we have seen above there is an ever growing and wide academic debate about the nature of identity. The question of identity in Britain has recently, with the devolution of Wales and Scotland, the continuing problems in Northern Ireland and the loss of some sovereignty to the European Union, been to the fore. Popular commentators such as Paxman (1999) and Marr (2000) and others are raising questions of the nature of Englishness. Indeed the question of national identity seems to vex the nation so much that the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Tony Blair, felt the need to make a speech about Britishness (28 March 2000). For Mr. Blair, Britishness encapsulated a shared set of fundamental values: fair play, creativity, tolerance and an outward looking approach to the world. Cornish identity however, plays little part in these discussions.
There has been little academic work on the subject of Cornish identity per se and of the work that has been carried out the greater part is the work of Cornishmen and women. The early modern writers such as Coate, A.L. Rowse and A. Quiller-Couch were in the main antiquarians and historians. It was their aim to involve themselves with the revival of the Cornish language and to provide a distinctive history that would add credibility to their claims to be one of the Celtic Nations and maintain a sense of continuity and difference from their English neighbours.
However, the main crux of the romantic historian’s argument concerning the Cornish identity was that despite the ‘useful’ context of a distinct and separate history, the Cornish were indeed a race apart. And it was a race that had at its roots a direct connection with the Celtic peoples so rudely evicted from England by Athelstan. These strong claims linking the Cornish with the romantic notions of Celticism allowed these revivalists to ‘take refuge from the ugly realities of modern Cornwall by returning to a past when Cornwall was ‘purely Cornish’ (Payton and Deacon 1993).
Thus, a Cornish identity is explicated in terms of its essentialist nature. Coate, in her book on the Civil War in Cornwall, tells us about the 'passionate attachment of the Cornish to their own county and their own race' (Coate, 1963:351)(my emphasis). Rowse tells us that in Tudor Cornwall, ‘the Cornish have a common history…like Brittany, or Wales or Ireland, reaching back beyond the Normans and Saxons, beyond even Rome’ (Rowse 1943:20). These memories are, according to Rowse (1941) carried in the legends of the race. (my emphasis). This somewhat romanticised essentialist position is emphasised even more in a book written by A.L.Rowse in conjunction with John Betjamin (1974) who is, according to Rowse, a ‘Cornishman by adoption’. In this co-written book (Victorian and Edwardian Cornwall from Old Photographs) Rowse (1974) tells us how Cornwall is the ‘home of the silent vanished races’. The people are from ‘Dark Mediterranean Stock’ and the Cornish themselves are a Celtic Race who have a ‘temperament in which the factor of heredity is so much stronger than anything’.
This focus upon Cornish culture, Cornish language and Cornish history was at the forefront of a Cornish revival. This Cornish revival, in tandem with the Celtic revival (which had its genesis in Ireland earlier than the 1920s), saw the development of Cornish cultural nationalism in the 1920s. Deacon (1993) tells us this developing identity was also the impetus behind the small Cornish nationalist political movement which arose in the 1950s (for example Mebyon Kernow, the nationalist party, is staunchly Celtic). However when talking about this period, Deacon (1993) accepts the essentialist argument concerning Cornish Identity and questions academic work which denies the existence of an ethnic identity in Cornwall (See Havinden, Queniart and Stanyer 1991).
Phillip Payton’s (1992) definitive work on modern Cornwall, on which this thesis draws strongly, also succumbs to essentialist reductionism in his claims that a Cornish identity is tied up in a Celtic History. In a paper in which he attempts to locate Cornish identity in ‘notions of territory [which] have been fundamental to expressions of Cornishness’ (Payton, 1992:252), he talks about the perceptions of ‘Celtic descent’ as being one of the ‘notable elements of contemporary Cornish identity’ (ibid:224).
In his ‘coffee table’ treatise entitled ‘Cornwall’ (Payton 1996) there is an inherent Celtic narrative which is exhibited from the font used for its title to the photos, text and images within. In this glossy approach to Cornwall Payton asserts from the off that ‘Cornwall is a far-flung half-forgotten remnant of the Celtic World’, and that ‘the Cornish are the last of an ancient race’ (Payton 1996:2). Indeed in his search for authenticity he claims strongly that even ‘The stones of Cornwall are old’. [his emphasis]. Later in this constructivist history of Cornwall he re-emphasises the claim for authenticity telling us that:
The status of these ancient people as not only prehistoric but also pre-civilisation has been confirmed, or at least emphasised, by the Celtic revival in Cornwall (Payton 1996:26)
This quote does, however, seem to point to some uneasiness about the use of the category ‘Celtic’ and Payton is at pains to provide a detailed account of the discussions concerning the usefulness of the term ‘Celt’ for some historians and archaeologists. But despite this uneasiness he is happy to assert that ‘Cornwall, its people and their Civilisation are essentially Celtic’ (Payton 1996:26). Indeed in a later chapter entitled ‘Mystery of the Celts’ he accepts that the Celts existed and that ‘the first wave of Celtic cultural and economic importance happened in the 6th Century’ (Payton 1996:50) from central Europe. He goes on to say:
The Celtic influence in Cornwall has been of enduring significance, most notably in the Cornish language which developed eventually from the Cornish Dialect spoken in the peninsula and has given us the vast majority of Cornish placenames, many surnames and a vernacular which survived until modern times (Payton 1996:50)
Further, in a chapter entitled Paralysis and Revival: the reconstruction of Celtic-Catholic Cornwall 1890-1945, (in Westland 1997) he insists that where once a Cornish identity was based upon industrial prowess (again an essentialist assumption) it had been transformed by the Celtic-Catholic revival to be Celtic and it was an identity which represented 'the heritage of Ancient Britons' (Westland 1997:37). In a paper written with Thornton (Payton and Thornton, 1995) they argue:
The Cornish-Celtic revival…reach [ed] out across the debris of the industrial era to a time when Cornwall was more ‘purely Cornish’…its origins shrouded in the mysteries of Arthur and the Saints. (p.85)
Other writers have sought to authenticate the more romantic notions of Celticism with ‘hard science’ in the form of genetic studies. For example Harvey et al (1986) carried out genetic work amongst the Cornish but their results were inconclusive (I expand upon this study in the Methodology chapter). Other work by Smith (cited in Payton 1993) concluded that the Cornish genetic signatures were to be found between the ‘broad spread of other Celtic populations and the Anglo Saxons’ (Payton 1993:113).
An article by Dick Cole (1997) (Cornwall Archaeological Unit) refutes the efficacy of using such genetic investigations as a way of understanding identities in the present, let alone identities in the past. He argues that our modern identities are formed as ‘a result of more complex and complicated factors such as assimilation, acculturation and accommodation’ (Cole, 1997:28) and any genetic study must accept this reality. In this way Cole aligns himself with writers such as Chapman (1992) and James (1999) who both question the validity of the existence of the modern understanding and usage of the terms Celt and Celtic. Indeed, Chapman suggests that a modern identification as a ‘Celt’ is created through opposition to the ‘other’, and the ‘other’ may be the establishment, England, France, modernity, pollution or Christianity.
Others, however, are more convinced that the Cornish do have a link with a Celtic past that informs and shapes their identity. Amy Hale (1997) is concerned with the study of the Celtic revival in Cornwall. She is happy to accept that there is a ‘phenomenon of contemporary Celtic identities’ (Hale, 1997:85) in Cornwall. In her conclusion she wants us to be clear that ‘Cornwall and the Cornish have, historically, participated in these Celtic discourses…[and that] Celtic expressions in Cornwall are meaningful, multi-vocalic and constantly undergoing change. (Hale, 1997:97) She argues that these Celtic discourses will impact upon those individuals who self-identify with a Celtic ethnicity, or perhaps with other forms of perceived Celtic inheritance, such as spirituality. Thus, for all Hale’s talk of culture, tradition, re-invention, the impact of the mass media and the historical context, she, like the others before her, succumbs to the essentialist argument. She also attacks, in Cornish Studies 4 (1996), Chapman’s (1992) book The Celts: the Construction of a Myth. The very title of the book review 'Foot in the Mouth or Foot in the Door? Evaluating Chapman's the Celts' indicates her irritation with Chapman's thesis. While she does allow that Chapman's studies offers new challenges for those in the field of Celtic Studies she tells us that what Chapman calls a 'dispassionate view of the facts.... reads like a frighteningly Anglophilic revisionist fantasy' (Hale, 1996:167).
Alan Kent (1996), although attempting to locate a Cornish identity within literary texts, such as Shakespeare’s Henry V, the 1991 film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, and an analysis of contemporary portrayals of Cornishness, such as in The Skipper and the detective series Wycliffe, still assumes that a Cornish identity is synonymous with a Celtic ident
ity and reduces Cornish identity to an essentialist identification of ‘traits’. His premise is that even Shakespeare was aware of the notion of ‘difference’ which the Cornish exhibited. He argues that the play Henry V ‘dramatised the might and mercy of the English Nation State’ (Kent, 1996:10) and it illuminates the ‘discord between England and her Celtic nations’ (Kent, 1996:11). Although it is left unsaid, it seems that Kent is alluding to a similar situation existing in contemporary Cornwall, his paper concluding with the almost revolutionary claim for the Cornish intellectuals to assume cultural leadership of the people.
Work by Seward (1997), entitled Cornish Rugby and Cultural Identity: A Socio-Historical Perspective, discusses to what extent sport in the form of Cornish rugby ‘influenced (or, indeed, became a defining construct of) the contemporary Cornish identity’? (Seward, 1997:164). He is arguing that as in the Welsh game there are particular nuances that can be recognised and that similar work needs to be carried out to identify similar Cornish nuances. He tells us that Cornwall compares to ‘the other Celtic nations’ (Seward, 1997:164). Nevertheless, he does allow that the Cornish rugby team fulfils an important symbolic role as a focus for Cornish sentiment. He is right to note that sport does reflect the reality of community life (Metcalfe 1996) and it is in Cornwall in particular where local rivalries have always been a boisterous and often violent part of life (see Hamilton Jenkins, 1972). Seward is also right, in my view, to suggest that sport and national identities have become intrinsically linked. We only have to note the increased use of the cross of St. George at many national sporting events in Britain or St Piran’s flag at Cornish events.
The very fact that there seem to be a number of different ways to understand a Cornish identity lends strength to the argument that a Cornish identity is a perfect example of fragmentation. This is at once supported by further evidence in magazines that are directed at the world-wide community of Cornish people. In a magazine called ‘Cornish Worldwide’ (1994), Kent is able to talk about the ‘mythical’ or ‘fantastical’ elements of a Cornish identity. In an earlier issue of the same magazine, Philip Payton (1992) explores the Cornish as ‘A Global Identity’ and, in the same issue, Vi West (1992) tells us of Cornwall’s Intellectual Identity. It would seem at a glance that a Cornish identity can be all things to all men and women.
Academic work on Cornwall and the claim for an ethnic identity is much stronger than the somewhat fragmented and over romanticised work of some of the writers above. McArthur for example, in her (1988) MSc dissertation at the University of Bristol, ‘The Cornish: a Case Study in Ethnicity’ makes the claim that the Cornish, by dint of their self-awareness and their location within a defined territory, are an ethnic group. McArthur however, does suggest that her respondents (18 in total) had strong notions of kinship and common origins and there was knowledge of a Celtic past, although this was not well articulated by all the respondents. Thus, McArthur’s Cornish identity has still not shed its essentialist thrust that this link to an actual or invented Celtic past gives to such explanations.
The question of what actually constitutes an ethnicity or ethnic groups is one that has vexed writers for the past 80 years. Max Weber gave us an early and subsequently influential definition of ethnicity (or as Weber calls them ‘anthropological types’) which, we will find is still as valid today as it was in 1922 when Weber published Economy and Society. If we accept Weber’s premise that such groups or types are based on the shared belief of common descent, then we are talking about an essentialist construction, that of race, as the writers above have done. As Weber tells us:
Race creates a ‘group’ only when it is subjectively perceived as a common trait: this happens only when a neighbourhood or the mere proximity of racially different persons is the basis of joint (mostly political) action, or conversely, when some common experiences of members of the same race are linked to some antagonism against members of an obviously different group. (Weber, 1978:385)
For Weber however, this belief in common ancestry is the consequence of collective action rather than the cause. Belonging is then the direct consequence of practical action on behalf of the group. It is the pursuit of collective interests that encourages a group to identify themselves as a distinct and separate ethnic group. This is clearly what the historical and antiquarian writers were alluding to in their use of the term ‘race’ and is clearly to be found in the subtext of McArthur’s position.
Ivey and Payton (1994) attempt to define the model of Cornish identity by presenting a ‘Cornish Identity Theory’. In this approach Ivey and Payton wish to consider ‘alternative perspectives on the Cornish identity’. While they broadly seem to accept culturally defined ethnic explanations, they wish to add to the broad definitions which emphasise shared values, language, history and so on, the notion that:
Ethnic identity is an acquired sense of oneself and/or one’s group as cultural beings, both emotionally and cognitively’ [my emphasis](Ivey and Payton, 1994:121)
They expand upon this saying that ethnic identity development:
…refers to the process of increasing individual and group understanding of previously unconscious forces (processes)[my emphasis] (Ivey and Payton, 1994:121)
The whole of the identity theory presented by Ivey and Payton (1994) is premised through with psychological reductionism. This is, in itself, in contrast to one of the writers they cite (Phinney, 1990 in Ivey and Payton, 1994:123) who tells them that ethnic identity is ‘a dynamic product that is achieved rather than simply given’: advice they chose to ignore. In their conclusion they baldly tell us that ‘…the attendant areas of counselling and psychotherapy should be used as an empowering or “liberating process”’ (Ivey and Payton, 1994:127). This is as if Cornishness is some sort of hidden memory that needs to be released by Freudian methods, or some sort of psychosis that needs to be treated. This is clearly essentialism at its most rife and offers nothing, I argue, to our understanding of Cornishness and the way in which Cornish identity is maintained.
For Deacon (1993), who is more open to the varied cultural explanations of ethnicity, one of the factors that interest him is the strong sense of association that the Cornish have to the geographical place of Cornwall. Using a model developed by a geographer (Paasi, 1986) to explain regional identities, Deacon (1993:202) highlights the importance of ‘ideas of community’ and ‘ideas of history’ to create a Cornish consciousness or ethnicity. Deacon, however, in this later work, is much more aware and careful when he makes his claims for a Cornish identity. He uses Anthony Smith’s (1981,1988) descriptions of an ethnic group as his starting point. Smith tells us than an ethnic community may be defined as a named human population, possessing a myth of common descent, common historical memories, elements of shared culture, an association with a particular territory, a sense of solidarity and one or more distinct characteristics and some sense of collective solidarity. Using these criteria Deacon comes to the conclusion that the Cornish ‘can be said to comprise a self-aware ethnic group with a sense of shared roots, common history and some notion of a distinct culture’ (Deacon, 1993:204). Deacon, while specifically shying away from the essentialist notions tied up in the claims for a Celtic heredity, simply reinforces them with his emphasis on roots, distinct culture and common history rather than looking to the more pragmatic signs of identity. However, Deacon is aware of the academic debates around identities and at times is able to note the nature of fragmentation and accommodation that post-modern identities exhibit. For example, writing with Payton (1993) Deacon is able to tell us (despite Payton's essentialist and Celtic leanings) that:
The sense of belonging to an imagined Cornish community now rests upon a wider set of symbols than before; a changing repertoire which includes co-opted elements from other cultures and newly re-invented 'traditions'. (Deacon and Payton 1993: 201)
However, when writing with others Deacon is not so certain of his ground. He allows himself to be party to statements that start to reflect the earlier essentialist explanations provided by the writers named above. For example, in a paper entitled ‘empowering Cornwall: the best government for the region and its communities’ (Deacon, Wills and Perry, 1994) the writers feel confident enough in an appendix entitled ‘Cornwall’s history and its identity’ to state ‘A separate non-English language…and a sense of non-Englishness’ underpinned the question of identity. It is this type of anti-English antagonism that Weber suggests allows a group to identify themselves as a different and distinct race.
Writing elsewhere about the Cornish language, Deacon (1996) removes himself from the essentialism of his collaborative writing. In his 1996 work he is able to consider how some aspects of the Cornish identity have moved beyond the certainties of classic modernity to uncertainty where ‘difference and disorder ‘ challenge the ways in which the world is understood. (Deacon 1996:101). For Deacon this aspect of the Cornish identity is part of the frantic and meaningless quest for ‘authenticity’. However, while Deacon attacks in this article the ‘grand narratives’ of the Cornish revival used by historians such as Nance to underpin their vision of a viable and living Cornish language, he is busy in other articles (1998) reinforcing ‘grand narratives’ of Cornish history wherein he makes the claim for a different and distinct historical and cultural experience.
One explanation for Deacon’s apparent inability to remove himself from the essentialisms which were used unquestioningly by other less aware writers is his role as a ‘cultural entrepreneur’. Deacon is at the centre of those who study and write about the Cornish situation. He is Cornish, a Bard of the Gorsedd and a Cornish speaker. Cornish is spoken at home and his daughter is being brought up as a Cornish speaker. He runs courses on Cornish history, such as an MA in Cornish Studies at the University of Exeter (See http://www.ex.ac.uk/admin/extrel/pgp/ics.htm) and is involved in Cornish/Celtic culture at various levels. Thus, it would be extremely difficult for Deacon to pursue a course of thinking which would lead, as he suggests when writing about the Cornish language, to a position where a Cornish identity is susceptible to an ‘anything goes’ approach. It turns out then that Deacon, despite his awareness of how an identity is often ‘any symbol in a storm’ (1993:76-77) is just as concerned about ‘authenticity’ as are those who are active in the language movement whom he seems to want to castigate.
I have attempted in this chapter both to show that identity construction, far from being the essentialist problem posited by the philosophers and positivist social scientists, is much more of a precarious activity. Individuals are inhabitants of a diversity of communities and social realities and that their identity will be constructed by a variety of discourses (Mouffe, 1988:35). This, of course, then becomes a problem of owning knowledge. For as Schutz tells us:
Knowledge is languaged and articulated according to socially and biographically variable schemata of relevance (Schutz, 1970).
The knowledge held by us that informs and shapes our identity, the identity consciousness, can either be stable and solid or it can be in a state of flux. Both Feyarabend (1988:161) and Gramsci (1971) seem to agree on this. We also seem to have 'squared the circle' in realising Augustine's principle that identity is reflexively created. However, what modern thought has added to Augustine's essentialist position is the importance of the social context. Somers and Gibson (1994) argued that the focus of attention had moved from the ‘particularistic’, where the social agent had an identity that was proscriptive and rule bound to the ‘universalistic’, where the social agent had now somehow transformed themselves into the concrete person. What this chapter has shown is how the social agent, made in the shape of God, whose identity is exemplified by Weber’s ethically bound Protestant has transformed into the so-called ‘real’ or concrete person. This post-modern individual, now, it seems, has the agency to throw off the old defining structures and is able to negotiate his/her way through the maze of identity narratives picking and choosing who he/she wants to be at will.
But as Baudrillard asks, how real is the real? In short, the image of free and infinitely increasing identity choices does nothing more than deter the realisation that the Enlightenment pursuit of ‘knowledge’ has imploded. Identity information describes movies on demand, electronic malls, and expanding numbers of television channels; the media is accelerating in a ‘void’ of the banal (Transparency 3). Increasing sophistication in technology produces more convincing simulations of identity and more convincing strategies of deterrence, difference and defence. The fascination of the depthless screen - ‘the superficial abyss’ - keeps us firmly rooted. With a wealth of information, we have no time to realise that we have nothing to learn.
We are barraged by a constant flow of images via mass media. Mass communication becomes part of everyday life and we are treated to an endless bombardment of signs that we accept, not as being real, but as Baudrillard would argue, as supplanting the real. The real loses its meaning, and so too does who we are; what we believe about ourselves is reduced to simulacra. Without any grounding in the real, and having no way to prove the real, our knowledge of the past is confined to whatever symbols we associate with it when we attempt to portray it. For example, ‘The 60s,’ as an historical entity, is not anything real, but merely the incorporation of symbols that define the way we think about that time, whether they be images of the Beatles, psychedelic images, Kennedy, the Pill, Isle of Wight Festivals, Pop Art, or Flower Power. There is no history, only a distorted nostalgia, distorted because it relies only on the symbols, icons, and indexes that we have access to at any given moment.
The question, however, is how do we make sense of this barrage of information and not lose our way within the maze of images and signs? My contention is that ‘leadership’ is provided by a group of culturally aware individuals that I call ‘cultural entrepreneurs’. These ‘cultural entrepreneurs’ are skilled practitioners of the cultural narratives and discourses that surround identity work. They work with entrepreneurial skill and zeal to provide the banal evidence that underpins the authenticity claims of a particular group. In Chapter 3 I will be showing how the identity work carried out by these cultural entrepreneurs represent a continuation of the tradition of social enlightenment first developed by the intellectuals of the Enlightenment.