I.D. Entities / SCRAM



The SCRAM/I.D. Entities series is concerned with the implications of multiple levels of identity. When we think of identity we think of something fixed. We could, however, think of it as a structure like a target or, as a more mobile image, a pebble-in-the-pond scenario-ever-widening concentric circles in time. First are named as individuals, we become members of a family, the family is located in a neighbourhood, the neighbourhood in a community and the community in a nation.


It may be that individuals identify with even wider criteria like being a European, but since international relations and institutions such as the European Union, the United Nations and the International Court are organised on the basis of nation states there is an inherent limitation, a kind of fading away, of any reinforcement of an identity of this nature. Nation states are loci of power and have an interest in maintaining that. It requires an act of political will to cede sovereignty to a supra-national body. Looked at in other terms there are slightly different categories: individual identity, gender identity, cultural identity and so on. Each of these increasingly wide categories confers/infers different aspects of identity but is subject to a common dynamic-the aspectual identity is imposed by the group and accepted, or actively sought by, the individual. What is relevant is the fact that all social aspects of identity are constructs with two main aspects-self ascription and ascription by others. Whether the identity is constructed one way or the other or is the result of a complex interaction, the result is that a border is set up which proposes a structure of within/without, exclusion/inclusion. These borders may be fluid, permeable and provisional-becoming the member of a temporary work group, for example-or they may be quasi-permanent such as belonging to an ethnic group or being a national of a particular state.




The permanence is often, however, only one of degree. Nationality can be changed by emigration-forced or otherwise-identification can be switched from one state to another. But ethnicity is a special case. You may disown your family; your family may disown you. You may (attempt to) disown your ethnicity, or ethnicity as a significant aspect of your identity, but if you try to do so in a context where it is physically visible, it requires the consent and tolerance of the defining group. That is again a question of power.