Each individual is a member of a community. Your family, friends, neighbors and fellow citizens form a human environment and they all share certain cultural and emotional ties. These ties shape the collective identity of a people. The collective identity is, in a nutshell, what differentiates one human group from another.
Elements of collective identity
The present reality of a people is the consequence of its past. Thus, the most important historical facts related to a collective allow us to explain its evolution over time. The case of Jewish identity is paradigmatic, as its culture and religion could not be understood without knowing its history.
The language of a people is another of its particular characteristics.
Let’s take the example of Argentina, in its national identity, its official language is Spanish. However, the Spanish spoken in certain parts of the country has other elements, such as lunfardo, the influence of Italian and Guarani.
A human group builds its own identity when, in addition to its history and language , they share a series of cultural elements: symbols, popular traditions, folklore, gastronomy , sense of humor, etc.
The debate on collective identity
While this concept is commonly used (we all have a collective identity), it is not without controversy. Let’s illustrate this fact with several reflections and examples:
1) The idea that the identity of a human group is associated with a territory is imprecise, since Gypsies, Jews, Kurds and other peoples have common traits, but they do not have a single territory;
2) Not all individuals are part of a collective identity, as some people call themselves world citizens or cosmopolitans;
3) The concept of collective identity is related to some historical episodes of xenophobia. In the Athens of the classical world, Athenians were considered “second-class citizens”, in Nazi Germany only authentic Aryans enjoyed social recognition , and some French citizens of Maghreb origin were not integrated into their own country. These examples remind us that the idea of collective identity can be used to create a climate of social tension;
4) A fundamentalist collective identity criterion becomes a dangerous tool that can undermine individual freedom and identity.