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Kosmopolis Institute Publications Day 9: Identity and Pluralism

Day 9: Identity and Pluralism

Today’s classes where totally dedicated to the subjects of pluralism and identity. Right from the start, this day was characterized by group reflections, starting with a two hour conversation on the questions: do we recognize a shift from so called 'conflicting political models', as for example Fascism and Communism to a struggle for identity? The other question being: If we could be reborn, with all the choices in the world, what would our identity entail? Which country would one want to be born in, which skin-color is our preference, do we want to be born in a religious or non religious environment, to which class would one want to be born in etc.? We also contemplated shifts in identity between generations? What were the choices our grandparents, our parents and we have to change our identity? Finally we sang our national anthems, which was hilarious. We shared both the general as well as the personal meaning of the lyrics. Besides some theories on pluralism and identity we continued the rest of the day in a similar manner; there were lots of discussion and Dr. Suransky had quite a struggle on interrupting the group to continue with her program.


While writing the blog, I was thinking that today is a perfect day for the readers of the blog to get a bit of an insight in the participants (identities) participating in the monsoon school. So I asked all the participants the same question: which three aspects of your personal identity would you count as most important? For some of the participants it proved to be an easy question, in one row they gave me the answer. For others it was more difficult, and twice I found myself in a big discussion about the desirability and feasibility of my question. Only one of the participants was in the end unable to answer my question, because according to him, there is not something as a fixed personal identity. All the answers I collected are shown in the sort of mind map below. In the middle of this mind map there is the subject, the participants of the monsoon school. All the 42 answers are in there (one answer in one balloon). All the answers I brought together in sort of mind map (see below, click for on it for a bigger image). If one answer was given more than once, the balloon crossed the border of the middle one. The answers: student (6), Indonesian (3), gender (3) etc. were frequently given as you can see. The answers: Christian, Blogger, Tall, Indian etc. just once. The further away from the center, the less frequently this answer was given. How the balloons are placed in the mind map is based on my subjective view on which balloons are connected; I placed connected topics both in the same collar and near each other. The topics I referred to are: religion, social relationships, profession, work, gender and race and country.



There are some notable points in this mind map. I will just point them out; what it means or says is for you as a reader to interpreted and decide. The first point is that three of the Indonesians considered their nationality as an important part of their identity, whereas just one Indian and Ugandan, and no Dutch gave this answer. Earlier in the program we already concluded that for the Dutch it’s not done to be proud on your country. The second point is that four of the women and just one of the man (8V & 6M), described their gender as an important part of their identity. And that none of the Dutch described gender as an important aspect of their identity. The third notable point from the mind map is that none of the Dutch describes religion as an important part of their identity, while three Indonesians, two Indians and one Ugandan see religion as an essential part of their personal identity. The fourth is that every participant from the Netherlands describes ‘student’ as an important identity feature and two of the four also added their profession as an important marker.


What the mind map shows is that the Monsoon School has quite a plural character. You can imagine that the Monsoon Summer School, in discussing topics like pluralism, religion, development, modernity and identity, divers enough is for interesting debates, knowledge exchanges and discussions.


Tim Blaauw is a Master student at the University of Humanistic Studies and is also working in several community projects concerned with minorities and cultural in the Netherlands.