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Borderland Selves: Rethinking Identity in Contemporary Global/Local Articulations
Unformatted Document Text:  universality and particularity, is constitutive of a variety of contemporary cultural processes and products, from “world music”, to Madonna, to diaspora identities. What this means in the context of identity formation is that identities are neither the assertion of pure particularism (i.e., of difference as difference, of the local as the local), nor the medium through which a global universal is expressed and reproduced. Rather, identities become possible and in fact can only exist in the constant oscillation, and inescapable tension, between the movement of asserting a certain specificity and coherence (i.e., its singularity) and disintegrating it through its incorporation into a larger and more inclusive relational space. It is in this very tension that identity emerges, as both product and process. For instance, if an ethnic or cultural minority has to assert its identity in a new social environment, it will have to take into account new situations and dynamics (a new field of relational possibilities and constraints), which will in turn inevitably transform that identity (Laclau, 1995: 103). Such is also the case, as Axtmann (1997) suggests, of contemporary radical Islamic movements in the Middle East, which have precisely come to be defined in the tension between the assertion of cultural traditions against Westernization, and the move to incorporate and embrace the modernization process, as the institutionalization of Islam in Iran shows, in the sense that it allows for the existence of a militarily strong, centralized, bureaucratic state and a capitalist market economy (40). Thus, culturally, the key question for this country has become how to be “modern” without becoming “Western”? But this phenomenon is not unique to the non-Western world, for in the United States the New Christian Right, like Islamic fundamentalism, which is defined by the assertion of group- cultural exclusivity as morally and ethically superior (and uniquely valid), and also the

Authors: Correa, Andres.
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universality and particularity, is constitutive of a variety of contemporary cultural processes
and products, from “world music”, to Madonna, to diaspora identities.
What this means in the context of identity formation is that identities are neither the
assertion of pure particularism (i.e., of difference as difference, of the local as the local), nor
the medium through which a global universal is expressed and reproduced. Rather, identities
become possible and in fact can only exist in the constant oscillation, and inescapable
tension, between the movement of asserting a certain specificity and coherence (i.e., its
singularity) and disintegrating it through its incorporation into a larger and more inclusive
relational space. It is in this very tension that identity emerges, as both product and process.
For instance, if an ethnic or cultural minority has to assert its identity in a new social
environment, it will have to take into account new situations and dynamics (a new field of
relational possibilities and constraints), which will in turn inevitably transform that identity
(Laclau, 1995: 103).
Such is also the case, as Axtmann (1997) suggests, of contemporary radical Islamic
movements in the Middle East, which have precisely come to be defined in the tension
between the assertion of cultural traditions against Westernization, and the move to
incorporate and embrace the modernization process, as the institutionalization of Islam in
Iran shows, in the sense that it allows for the existence of a militarily strong, centralized,
bureaucratic state and a capitalist market economy (40). Thus, culturally, the key question
for this country has become how to be “modern” without becoming “Western”? But this
phenomenon is not unique to the non-Western world, for in the United States the New
Christian Right, like Islamic fundamentalism, which is defined by the assertion of group-
cultural exclusivity as morally and ethically superior (and uniquely valid), and also the


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