Hall and Cultural Identity
The true definition of identity for the black diaspora has been a subject of debate for a long time. Most people believe that cultural identity is the feeling of belonging to a group and that it is based on a group’s sameness and synergy. However, Stuart Hall, author of “Cultural Identity and Diaspora” provides an alternative to this belief. In his study, Hall says that identity is not a stagnant thing and that it is a property that should be molded by individuals as they progress through life. Several authors within the black diaspora provide basis for his claims. Specifically, Frantz Fanon (“The Fact of Blackness”) and Jamaica Kincaid’s (“On Seeing England”) experiences coincide and clash with Hall’s ideas while giving a clearer definition of identity. Hall’s redefinition of cultural identity as a constantly evolving idea is exemplified through Fanon and Kincaid because both authors reestablish what makes them who they are in the diaspora.
In “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”, Hall argues that the more commonly known definition of cultural identity is that individuals within a diaspora are connected by a single oneness. In this definition, the affected individuals have one “shared history” that they must “discover, excavate, [and] bring to light.” This identity is not one that accommodates change due its “stable, unchanging” nature. According to Hall, this is a problematic issue for black people. The attempt to create a monolithic Afro-Caribbean/Afro-American culture is wrong due to all the cultural doctoring one would have to do to achieve that oneness. Despite Hall’s disagreements, he acknowledges that one benefit of a “shared culture” is that it allows people afflicted with the negatives of the diaspora to overcome their problems and have a better understanding of who they are.
Hall’s second definition of cultural identity partially juxtaposes and improves upon the first by giving people in the diaspora a chance to be themselves. Hall argues that cultural identity should be a metamorphic experience that is “far from being eternally fixed”. An identity is a “matter of becoming as well as being”. They have to originate from somewhere, have stories, and similar to the people who wield them, they undergo a “constant transformation”. Identity is mostly affected by “the continuous ‘play’ of history, culture, and power” When talking about the black diaspora specifically, colonized people have been oppressed throughout history and their need for freedom has affected many identities as time goes on.
Frantz Fanon, another chronicler of the black experience, has his own understanding of identity that may coincide and conflict with Hall’s ideas. Fanon’s text describes his experiences as black man and how his encounters with the white race made him feel inferior. He eventually overcomes this through resistance and boosting his self-confidence. In “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”, Hall explains that oppressors have the “power to...