Toward an Ongoing Dialogue
A glance at the turbulent developments over just the last twenty years
suggests that pronouncements aimed at delegitimizing concepts like iden-
tity and identification as anachronisms are at best premature. For a host
of reasons—ethnic, economic, religious—cultures and boundaries are in a
heightened state of rearrangement and flux. At the same time that chang-
ing relations among nation-states are evidenced in the ongoing expansion
of a supranational entity like theE uropean Union and the formation of vast
regional trade alliances capable of spanning oceans and continents, other
nations are being fractured or split apart by ethnonationalisms, as new axes
of identification are seemingly born every year. Despite the accelerated pace
of global restructuring and the oft-proclaimed demise of the grip of nation-
alism, the affective power of social identification and affiliation is hardly
dead or dying.I ndeed, with the end of theC old War, many groups in the
former satellite and successor states of theS oviet Union actively sought to
reidentify with their pre-Communist source cultures, despite generations
of pervasive indoctrination. Although there clearly are histories, cultural
and religious bonds, language communities, class interests, and ideologi-
cal allegiances that overlap local and national particularisms, the need to
assert, valorize, reclaim, or invent forms of identification and contexts of
association continues to resonate among disparate peoples whose desires
are powerfully shaped by contemporary events.
Not only do cultures still matter—sometimes in new and unexpected
ways—but also the idea of culture has hardly been neutralized, super-
seded, or rendered obsolete. Humanity, as we are reminded, continues to
form groups and generate the “symbols and systems with which to com-
municate,” since it is through interaction around shared meanings that
communities are shaped, a process that ultimately remains “an expres-
sion of culture.”1 Despite dispersal and social fragmentation, a prevailing
ethos of placelessness, and the profound impact of globalization and things
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