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SPOTLIGHT

What is Culture and Identity?

Zach:I think the 2 things feed each other. Culture informs and shapes who you are as a person. And who you are defines the kind of culture you eventually embrace. So both are constant in flux as well. Once you fixate on a certain culture it dies. Once you are able to fully define yourself, you are probably dead too. Culture has to be in flux because each of us are born in a different time and space. Likewise identity will constantly change. But change is usually uncomfortable, and growth hurts like hell.

Edward: Culture is something through which you can recognise which society or demographic group you belong to. Identity is something through which you can recognise yourself as a unique individual.

Fervyn:Culture is common every-day lifestyle habits, beliefs and behavior of the people, that are celebrated, taken pride in and positively recognized by the people in consensus. It is a way of life that differentiates a community from another. It builts on regularity, routines, habits, common behavioural trends, and distinct likings and dislikes of people living in a common environment. Culture does not define identity, but it is strong enough to comfortably blanket every individuality. Identity,  A long, perhaps lifelong, maybe tedious, sometimes boring, other times surprising, definitely rewarding search  - for those who care, those who seek a place, those who dare to know, those who must understand their dreams, and ulitmately those who are not afraid of being personal with themselves. But to those less existentially complicated, identity are labels.

Ric: "Culture" is the conversation and expression formed between Man and Habits and Customs and Environment."Identity" is a label that Society tag on us. Society can use "Identity" for categorising or segregating.

Rei:Culture is the essence of our everyday life, it affects the choice we take. During my conversation with Bugis Artist Zai Kunning, while in search of Mat Yong. He once said that why does singaporeans often seek for culture and identity? Why do us chinese always in search of who we are. The act of taking a dump can also be culturally influenced. its not that we do not have culture, its just that we think our culture doesnt belong to us. We think the rich singapore malay history doesnt belong to us, the china chinese culture isnt ours, then what are we? To me, even Chinese new year is our culture, taking a walk at geylang serai during hari raya is our culture, singlish is our culture, Kopi-o is our culture. That being said, we determines what culture we take on? who told us not to speak our dialects? who told us not to speak singlish? Identity on the other hand, varies. To each of their own, if you need another's approval, that is also a kind of identity. It will always change, and is always like this. WE should not be afraid of not knowing our identity, but we should not ignore it. As long you are ok with who you are, that's identity.

Suhuai: Culture manifested via a group is a custom, and also forms a part of the cultural history of this group. It would become a signifier for that place or tribe, thereby enhancing the identity of this particular place or tribe. Culture as manifested through an individual could be multi-faceted – An individual can present characteristics typical of many places or culture. A long time ago, when someone says that you are cultured, it refers to the fact that you are literate. This highlights the emphasis the Chinese places on the literary aspect of culture. And it does look like culture has to depend on text and literature. If one does not encapsulate a place’s lifestyle or culture in text or any sort of written record, then the culture of that place would remain amorphous and indescribable. Identity involves two aspects – Others identifying with you, and you identifying with yourself. How others identify with you could occur in the easiest of circumstances – through categories of gender, race, nationality, etc, the other person would simply make a judgment call based on the stereotypical impressions he has from these existing categories. The mainstream crowd may enjoy this, as it could manifest your superiority through these labels. However, for those in the minority or oppressed groups, they would perhaps not be as happy. Because these judgments would often bring about discrimination and bias. As such, these minorities would rather hide their own traits. How then do you identify with yourself? It is a philosophical question that one would question for a lifetime – Profound, but nevertheless something that you have to confront with. You genetic makeup, race and gender predisposes your history and there is something worthwhile for you to discover in order to complete the journey of self-discovery. However, you must also understand, it is precisely because you are made up of so many different distinct traits, therefore you end up being unique.

Liansheng:Culture is what you can shape the society with, and also what the society produces to shape you with, at the same time.

Issy:Identity is something that helps you know who you are. It helps you locate yourself in the world, as part of a unit, a community, a society. It is something used to lock you down, but at the same time, free you. It is a never-ending quest to find out where exactly you belong, even as you are very sure of your roots and your purpose in life. Identity is something you can never escape; for as long humans obsess with the need to give everything a name, and so you must be "identified". It is also something very vague, especially in our era of anonymous personas, sub-cultures and globalization. It is something easily changed and redefined, if you wish it to be and are able to let go of everything before. It is also something to hold on to, especially in times where you find yourself questioning where you are neccessary, or important. Basically, Identity is everything and nothing. It really depends on how much you feel your identity defines you, and whether it actually helps you or hinders you from becoming who you really are. You can embrace your identity and be happy in that knowledge, or refute your identity and in doing so, find a new one.

Haibin:This is a very important question for Singaporeans. In Gao's works, there are usually no characters, no identity. I often feel that Singaporeans are in a state of diaspora, drifting, unable to root themselves-- and hence unable to form an identity. Maybe the only identity that they can safely assume is "human"...? Well, perhaps that is an insight.


arrow  Continue reading on Issue 4 / 31 March 2015:Experiment • Viewpoint