re: a proper introduction
Wed, 1 May 1996 22:30:27 +0000

Alessandra Iantaffi writes:

>Do people who
>'belong' to various groups have a 'layered' identity, where one identity
>is more 'core' than the other(s), or do they choose to ignore the others,
>or is their identity completely unique? Therefore, is the experience of
>oppression ( and its associated constructs) shared by different
>people/groups or not? This may sound silly questions but are central to
>my research, and I dare say on a personal level as well.

I have no direct empirical data on this fascinating question, but can offer
some introspections based on my own identification with two cultures: on
the one hand Polish (bilingual, my first language albeit raised in the UK,
culture originally emigree Polish but during the last 6 years reinforced in
its aboriginal version by frequent travel to, and long-term residence in,
Poland), and on the other hand English (educated and employed in the UK,
generally domiciled there apart from a busy and affaectionately remembered
12-year sojourn in Ireland which served to challenge the basis of my
identification with both the former cultures).

Is one identity more "core" than the other?

Not for me.

I veer from feeling that one is more fundamental, to feeling that the other
is more fundamental, depending less on my location (Poland or England) or
current circumstances, amd much more on a momentary sensitivity to some
stimulus which triggers off a feeling before it triggers off any cognitive
response. (If this affective-cognitive distinction fits uncomfortably into
a Kellian analysis of the sensibilities invovled in construing, my
apologies: it just feels more appropriate and accurate to employ this
distinction to describe how it seems to me.)

A snatch of music which is typically Polish on the one hand; typically
English on the other (The opera Straszny Dwor- the Haunted Manor- in the
first case; and something like Elgar, or a Morris tune, on the other.)
An attitude as expressed by conversational idioms (More difficult to
exemplify in Polish or English: may I offer as analogy the frame of mind
evoked by the phrase "No worries!" to an Australian in contrast to the
phrase "You're welcome!" as uttered by an English person, when both are
used as a response to the phrase "thank you" in either culture.)
The affective tone with which one self-justifies some patently absurd
aspect of either culture, and justifies one's identification to oneself
(Poles elected their kings since the 15th century, and would not pass an
Act of Parliament unless unanimously since the 17th century: absurd!
ungovernable! no wonder the country fell apart... "aha! but that's true,
genuine, total democracy, my friend, and dam' the foreign trimmers who seek
the false stability of primogeniture and majority voting" is what it
_feels_ like in Polish. But I'm immediately thrown into an English frame of
mind when I think about the way in which the UK adheres sincerely to
European legislation which happens to be against English interests, in
contrast to the French or the Germans who show a degree of pragmatic
self-interest in implementing European legislation against their national
interest... by the English _decency_ in the view that there's no point in
bothering with legislation unless one sticks to it until something better
is evolved, old chap.) Note, it's the feeling which comes with either
stance, rather than the stance itself, which throws me into one or other
core identification.
And, yes, the Proustian effect of a taste or a smell, remembered or
experienced, characteristic of one country or the other.

I dunno if this helps your thesis, Alessandra, or hinders it, but that's
what it's like for me. Sharing two cultures, I'm rather marginal; on the
cusp and entering one or the other as my core identification varies from
occasion to occasion, rather than feeling either "fundamentally Polish" or
"fundamentally English" when my core constructs are specified.

I wonder how other bi-cultural colleagues exprience this?

Jim Mancuso, are you there?

Kindest regards,

Devi Jankowicz

PS I haven't addressed the inference which you raise, viz.,
>Therefore, is the experience of
>>oppression ( and its associated constructs) shared by different
>>people/groups or not?
having gone on quite enough already. But as far as cultural identification
is concerned, I imagine I could feel oppressed as a Pole and oppressed as
an English person, I guess, with different stimuli triggering off the
feeling. Perhaps non-Israeli Jews in the diaspora, identified strongly with
their country of residence, might also offer us some interesting views on
this issue?