Cultural Anthropology

Is Identity Shaped by Culture

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Identity is culture and culture is identity. The scientific disciplines that explore this are Linguistic Anthropology and Sociology. Elinor Ochs and Bambi Schieffelin addressed socialization using linguistic as well as ethnographic methods. They discovered enculturation, socialization, and language acquisition are mutually inclusive. Culture and language are an integrated process.

While individuals may believe, their identity is a priori independent of existence and/or experience. Evidence shows that identity is a posteriori in part, culminating from culture and language. That means culture and corresponding language shape individual notions of identity. This includes an individual’s concept of terms such as identity and individuality.

The question proposed by this article (presuming it is a coherent question) predicates a priori cultural orientation with religious precepts having an anthropomorphic “God” (belief that God resembles a human being) verses far-eastern (and other) religious precepts that hold identity as mostly an illusion (this also shaped by culture and language). The possibility the question, “is identity shaped by culture,” may be incoherent because in some cultures, this question may make no sense…Yes, by default, culture shapes identity (and its order of magnitude)…

The Sociological examination of identity finds the concept extremely difficult to pin down with both internal and external factoring components. The term identity in-and-of itself is inherently a measurement using by definition external individuals and influences as role models by which an individual shapes and defines his or herself both internally and externally. This makes socialization and enculturation integral to the process. However, sociologists believe because identity is virtual it is impossible to define empirically.

The Neo-Eriksonian identity-status paradigm focuses on twin concepts of exploration and commitment choosing to examine individuals’ identity as a process navigated throughout life and dependent upon experience, current, past, job-related and socio-economic pressures. However, this paradigm chooses to focus on the “I” component of the “self” verses the “me” component of the “self-concept.” Neither of these specifically becomes the total image defined as “identity.” Both internal processes and external experiences making the two mutually inclusive shape identity, not unlike the discovery that language and culture are an integrated process, similarly, identity, and culture are also an integrated process.

Just as certain as Socrates quote, “the unexamined life is not worth living,” human beings will always attempt to identify with their own experiences and sense of purpose. Ultimately, the culture in which they choose to undertake the effort and the language they choose to discuss their identity in will be significant and influential factors. In addition, identity can never be wholly individual since inherent to its definition is an intrinsic measurement against someone or something else. (How they may choose to relate to) That someone or something will be a component of the individuals’ socialization, or enculturation…for us to suggest an identity is (in/dependent upon) anything else would result in some form of Solipsism…

Gorgias (of Leontini)

Solipsism is first recorded with the Greek Sextus Empiricus as having stated:

Nothing exists; Even if something exists, nothing can be known about it; and Even if something could be known about it, knowledge about it cannot be communicated to others.

Much of the point of the Sophists was to show that "objective" knowledge was a literal impossibility. (See also comments credited to

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