The Difficulty of Identity
One of the more perplexing questions we deal with is that of identity. Sure, you know who you are – or a least you think so. But there are many different ways of describing yourself, and probably even more ways in which people can see you. Identity is never really certain; it shifts, changes, falls apart and re-forms in unusual ways. So after banishing the last set of microreviews to the dedicated page, I pulled together a new set of books that could say something about the ever-present difficulty of identity.
The latest reviews are now in the sidebar at the right. They cover comics, cartoonists, geopolitics and representation, already a mismatch of ideas. And that’s the thing about identity – we think of it as a defining element in our lives when it’s often elusive. How do we know who we are? From Sigmund Freud via Jacques Lacan, psychiatrists have come to understand the formation of identity as a process in which the small child observes in itself those things that are variations in others. Cultural theorists put it this way: the Other imperfectly reflects the Self.
Forgive the capitalisation, it merely indicates that these are emphatic categories – just like the West and the East, which was much the point of Edward Said’s groundbreaking Orientalism. Said detailed how those who we might now call ‘Western’ scholars built a system of knowledge around an image of the benighted ‘East’ that they essentially wanted to see, that confirmed their own conceptions of an enlightened West.