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A Blog About Culture

Recognition, Situation, Identity, Reality

My groundwork project focuses on the creation of communities, and how people construct notions of community, ethnicity, group, or belonging for themselves. My intent for my project was to include discussion of benefits of self-identification, definition of community, and the ways conversation, as a teaching tool, becomes part of the creation process. Through my research, I was finding that the areas of self-identification can really be explored much more in depth than I had planned to do in my project. There are many factors that affect this process, understandably, and also many consequences. I found myself gravitating towards scholarship on nationalism as a large-scope example of the process I was researching. Although the emergence of nationalism is one aspect of the construction of group identity, I found it to be an appropriate synecdoche for what I intended. Along with the discussions of nationalism, though, the scholars in these texts also bridged discussions to compartmentalization and racial prejudices, and even racism. The arguments in a few of the texts I read asserted that with group pride could come ethnocentrism, and then from there, racism just a stone’s throw away. I think that is an interesting and deserving direction to take this research; I just found those concepts not to be within the realm with which I was I dealing. I feel as though my groundwork project points to one specific, small area within group identity (as it should – I don’t have the room or time to include everything, of course), but that there are other areas of the web that cannot be ignored. I fear that my project naively makes assertions that perhaps ignore or do not take into account the other problems of identity that I did not have time to pursue.

But also…

Ideology is a material practice which creates subjects who are  in turn subjected to its specific patterns of thought and modes of behavior. – John Storey on Althusser

I believe that there is also another follow-up scope in social theory that could stem from my research in this topic. I wrote under the assumption (that even I do not believe) that psychology is ‘real’ in that the theories are true and for every person. In fact, I do not believe that. The writings I did for my groundwork project project that everyone who is part of a community (so, everyone) undergoes the same inclusion and eventually names their own identities whether consciously or in some other performance. I may have just subjected my dear hypothetical people (and myself as the writer) to the interpellation or ‘hailing’ of Althusser. I wrote about him in undergrad but quite forgot all about it until I had that nagging feeling that I will equate to deja-vu out of the Matrix.

John Storey, in my textbook Cultural Theory and Popular Culture (62-63) summarizes:

“In Althusser’s second formulation, ideology is still a representation of the imaginary relationship of individuals to the real conditions of existence, only now ideology is no longer seen as a body of ideas, but as a lived, material practice — rituals, customs, patterns of behavior, ways of thinking taking practical form — reproduced through the practices and productions of the Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs): education, organized religion, the family, organized politics, the media, the culture industries, etc. According to this second definition, ‘all ideology has the function (which defines it) of “constructing” concrete individuals as subjects’ (2006:343). Ideological subjects are produced by acts of ‘hailing’ or ‘interpellation.’ Althusser uses the analogy of a police officer hailing an individual: ‘Hey, you there!’ When the individual hailed turns in response, he or she has been interpellated, has become a subject of the police officer’s discourse. In this way, ideology is a material practice which creates subjects who are  in turn subjected to its specific patterns of thought and modes of behavior.”

So this is a problem.


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