Cultural Identity

‘Cultural identity’, according to Stuart Hall can be viewed through twodifferent ways. The first position views ‘cultural identity’ in terms of oneshared culture, reflecting typical historical experiences and shared culturalcodes. Further, these cultural codes and common historical experiences ‘provideus, as ‘one people’, with stable, unchanging and continuous frames of referenceand meaning'(Hall, p.393). The second view relies heavily on the individual’sexperience of their culture.

Through this view, culture is always changing, itis not static as claimed by the first definition. ‘Far from being eternallyfixed in some essentialised past, they are subject to the continuous ‘play’ ofhistory, culture and power’ (Hall, p.394). We all write and speak from aparticular place and time, from a history and a culture that is specific to us,in other words from a ‘position of enunciation’. The ‘black experience’ whichHall refers to as a commonly shared history and ideology, pendant on colour, isin reality something which relies heavily on individual experience, and eachexperience in this case is context positioned.

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For example, the black experienceof a Jamaican and an African living in Britain will be different even thoughthey are both black. Hall talks about the synthesis of cultures, of having anoriginal culture that is dominated by a colonising culture and the result beingan integration of the two into something completely new. This ‘mixture’ or ‘hybridity’is the essence of what makes Jamaica what it is today. People can’t return tothe mystical origins of an idealised time in history and ignore the influencesof the colonial invasion.

His conclusion is that the purpose of the modern blackcinema is to allow us to recognise and explore the different parts that go intoconstructing our ‘cultural identities’. ‘This is the vocation of modern blackcinemas: by allowing us to see and recognise the different parts and historiesof ourselves, to construct those points of identification, those positionalitieswe call in retrospect our ‘cultural identities”(Hall, p.402). Culture issocially transmitted and if not passed on, will be forgotten, and hence willcease to exist. Through the media, culture is constructed and by analysing thesecultural identities we attempt to explain ourselves and our past, thereforecontinuing our existence.

‘A national culture is the whole body of efforts madeby a people in the sphere of thought to describe, justify and praise the actionthrough which that people has created itself and keeps itself in existence'(Fanon, p.188). During the British occupation of Malta, the Maltese adopted manyof the British customs but modified them to fit their own cultural norms,therefore creating a hybridity of the two. For example, the language use of theupper – class in Malta.

It is English, but it has been altered enough, throughthe accent, to make it distinct and recognisable as a Maltese dialect of theEnglish language. This shows the synthesis of the two cultures, combining tocreate a new form specific to the Maltese culture after British rule.