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Kathrin Bouvot (Genua/Italy)#

Rigid Identity Models as an Obstacle on the Way to Enlightenment Today#

The present phenomenon of global mass migration requires a new form of enlightenment in the sense of recognizing the danger of rigid identity concepts. The consequence of such an identity concept that is basing on the idea that every person consists of one rigid identity is the risk that a form of multiculturalism arises that is in reality a plural monoculturalism. With the term „plural monoculturalism“ is meant that there is a coexistence of countless parallel societies that don't want to communicate with each other. Unemployment, poverty and a high incidence of crime are frequent consequences of such a false multiculturalism. In this context, Amartya Sen claims that the existence of a multiplicity of multicultural parallel societies cannot be automatically described with the term „multiculturalism“: „One important issue concerns the distinction between multiculturalism and what may be called „plural monoculturalism“. Does the existence of a diversity of cultures, which might pass each other like ships in the night, count as a successful case of multiculturalism? […] In contrast, having two styles or traditions coexisting side by side, without the twain meeting, must really be seen as „plural monoculturalism“. The vocal defense of multiculturalism that we frequently hear these days is very often nothing more than a plea for plural monoculturalism.“ In my presentation I will show the reasons why such rigid identity models provoke the development of a false multiculturalism. A solution approach to reduce the risk that such a plural monoculturalism arises is offered by flexible identity models. They are, at the same time, the foundation stone for a successful integration and the precondition for the prevention of the emergence of poverty among immigrants. The aim of my presentation is to demonstrate that a possible reason behind the failure of integration and, as a resulting phenomenon of this failure, the arising of the phenomenon of a plural monoculturalism and of all specific problems correlated with it, are a too rigid identity theory because such a theory leads to intolerance amongs peoples and to segregation of certain population groups. The acceptance that every person consists of a plurality of identities and that the own identity is subject to a constant change process because of the fact that there are arriving permanently new identities makes it easier to be open to the supposed „foreign“ and „different“ persons. The acceptance of flexible identity models reduces any kind of reserves against certain population groups and, at the same time, it minimizes any tendency of racial segregation and of isolation of certain groups. Such an identity concept favors an atmosphere in which it is possible a repectful togetherness in peace including a good communicative basis without the enforcement that the counterpart has to give up his differences with the meaning of homogenization. Jonathan Sacks claims in his book The Dignity of Difference. How to avoid the Clash of Civilisations that conflicts between different cultures can be avoided if the differences between the cultures are interpreted as something of fundamental importance, as a value that has to be saved. For Sacks the reduction of cultural differences is not a solution approach for reducing conflicts between different cultures. Sacks argues that the existing cultural diversity must be saved and that the precondition of unity is diversity. A fruitful approach is offered by Sen's identity concept. Sen considers the identity as a cultural phenomenon that can be (within a certain frame) freely chosen and changed by the person. Sen stresses the importance of consolidating the idea that every person consists of a plurality of identities because he considers this identity concept as „the main hope of harmony in our troubled world […].“ Sen considers the conception of a singular identity as an artificial construct. No person can be reduced to a singular and rigid identity: „In our normal lives, we see ourselves as members of a variety of groups – we belong to all of them. A person's citizenship, residence, geographic origin, gender, class, politics, profession, employment, food habits, sports interests, taste in music, social commitments, etc., make us members of a variety of groups. Each of these collectivities, to all of which this person simultaneously belongs, gives her a particular identity. None of them can be taken to be the person's only identity or singular membership category.“ In my presentation I will analyze why such rigid identity models have a high hazard potential although they don't exist in the sense that they don't correspond in no way with the relationship that a concrete man has with his identity in real life. The aim of my presentation is to discuss whether flexible identity models that are basing on the idea that every man is a sum of a plurality of different identities could improve the living together of persons with different cultural and religious backgrounds and whether such identity models could alleviate or solve already existing problems, as for instance, violence and terrorism. I am interested in the question whether flexible identity models, as for instance Sen's identity concept, could be a solution approach for preventing the development of poverty and social isolation among immigrants and whether such identity models could influence political reform processes in the fight against racism. A new form of enlightenment is required. Every person must have the courage to rethink his or her identity.