Thursday, February 21, 2008

Where the streets have two names...


In this era of globalization – which seems to be a paradox at first – identity is an important part of contemporary politics. In Indonesia this is amplified due to decentralization. I took the photo above in Bandung (merdeka means independence, i.e. independent from colonial powers such as the Netherlands); the street signs of the main roads have been replaced for bi-lingual ones – silly identity politics (the second language is Sundanese; but irony: the model on the billboard is miss universe). Identity is a complicated matter. And identity matters. Identity matters for the way we are, think, and act. The Nobel Prize-winner Amartya Sen wants to make clear in his latest book ‘Identity and Violence’ that nations are not diverse because they are federations of peoples, each nation, on the other hand, is a collection of individual citizens and each individual inhibits a wide range of identities. Sen writes that he “can be, at the same time, an Asian, an Indian citizen, a Bengali with Bangladeshi ancestry, an American or British resident, an economist, a dabbler in philosophy, an author, a Sanskritist, a strong believer in secularism and democracy, a man, a feminist, a heterosexual, a defender of gay and lesbian rights, with a nonreligious lifestyle, from a Hindu background, a non-Brahmin, and a non-believer in an afterlife (and also […] in a ‘before-life’ as well).” It depends on the context, according to Sen, which part gets focus. No matter how constraint we are by circumstances, we still have to choose and for making choices we need to reason, i.e. to give arguments and justifications. Without reasoning and choosing we are not taking responsibility for our own life. According to Sen, a ‘solitarist’ approach to human identity can have violent consequences (e.g. in Rwanda or former Yugoslavia).

3 comments:

felinesopher said...
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Juhász Péter said...

Are the two street names translation of each other, or they have different meaning?
Peter Juhasz, Transylvania, Europe

Roy said...

Hello Peter, the language on top is Indonesian, the other language is Sundanese, the language spoken in West Java, and it is a translation of the Indonesian.