Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Borders and Cultural Fluidity

The three readings for this week all touch on one important concept in defining cultural identity. Namely, that borders do not and cannot act as indicators of a person's beliefs, nationality, or values. Identity is fluid and has the ability to transgress all types of borders, both physical and imagined. These separate readings all contain examples of people who surpass physical borders and retain his or her own values.
            The first reading, Towards a New Consciousness, sets the tone for the articles that follow. The author makes the case that a third consciousness must be developed in order for cultures and identities to merge successfully. It cannot only be about one against the other; rather, it must be a collective effort to hone this new way of thinking to establish more peaceful and tolerant rhetoric between cultures. The mestiza consciousness occurs when a person stops merely reacting to situations, and instead acts of his or her own accord: “In attempting to work out a synthesis, the self has added a third element which is greater than the sum of its severed parts. That third element is a new consciousness—a mestiza consciousness—and though it is a source of intense pain, its energy comes from continual creative motion that keeps breaking down the unitary aspect of each new paradigm” (102). This third consciousness can act as a catalyst for change, but only when this perspective is developed out of a need to keep moving forward.
            The second reading, Who’s Irish?, by Gish Jen tells the story of an elderly Chinese grandmother who must grow and change after she is rejected by her daughter. As stated before, borders do not define a person’s cultural values or identity. The grandmother in these stories is living in a foreign country after fleeing from China with her daughter. She and her daughter often clash when it comes to discussing Irish and English culture, as the daughter believes her mother’s attitudes are backwards. Things come to a head when the daughter discovers her mother has been beating her granddaughter. After awhile, the grandmother has to learn to accept that her methods are no longer tolerated, and she must forge a new identity.
            The last reading, Borders, tells the tale of a woman attempting to cross the border from Canada into America. She runs into problems when the guard at the border asks her to declare her citizenship, and she simply identifies herself as Blackfoot. The guard is unsatisfied with this response, and the woman is forced to sleep in her car with her son on the border. She is desperate to retain her sense of identity, and she refuses to conform to the idea that a border defines the people who live in it.
            These three readings all deal with the problem of identity, and how to preserve it when physical borders are removed. To the characters in the stories, leaving one border to enter another does not mean that they give up values and beliefs. To them it is the people within a border that should define the area, and not the other way around.

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