Many a times the viciousness associated with intergroup discrimination and the resultant competition could give way to nasty social and national arrangements like apartheid in earlier South Africa or acts of genocide or say the Jim Crow laws in the American South. The other aspect of a yearning for social identity is the merging of individual and ethnic identities into a larger national identity to give way to cohesiveness and cooperation. The post independence India and Singapore are apt examples of this aspect of social identity. People do tend to aspire for group memberships to look for mechanisms to bolster the individual and collective self esteem. However, sometimes mere group affiliations are in themselves not sufficient to strengthen their self esteem. Under such situations, people do aspire to think and establish that they are in just the right group by giving way to positive distinctions from other groups. Assumption of an umbrella national identity, over regional and ethnic identities is one such way in which the social identity theory is utilized to give way to a pan national cohesiveness. Incorporation of National Identities in Individual Social Identities As per the social identity theory, an individual is not merely endowed with a single self, but rather many selves that share boundaries with varied circles representing group memberships. As to which personal self and individual intensely relates to depends on a specific context which encourages or stimulates an individual to think in terms of family, ethnic or national level of self (Tajfel & Turner 117). For instance, deep personal loss or trauma may motivate an individual to think in terms of family level of self. Instances of social prejudice and ethnic discrimination may encourage an individual to opt for an ethnic level of self. The natural premise that originates from such catechism is that apart from thinking in terms of personal selves, an individual is also liable to affiliate to or shun multiple social identities (Tajfel & Turner 121). The individuals tend to internalize these social and group identities on the basis of their personal perceptions as to what defines “us”. This notion of social identity may be way part from an individual’s personal identity, which has primarily to do with the peculiar and unique attributes of an individual. Take for instance the caste based society in India (Singh 6). At an individual level an orthodox upper caste Hindu in India, depending on one’s individual beliefs, may find nothing in common with a lower caste Hindu or say a Muslim. However, in moments of national distress or under a threat to the nation, the very same person may find nothing wrong in including these hitherto shunned groups in a commonly shared national identity affiliated to common goals and aspirations. Within the perspective of this particular example lies the relevance of Benedict Anderson’s Theory of Imagined Communities. It helps one to understand as to what is the national identity? A national identity is one possible social identity out of many. Under many circumstances, a national identity may assume the strength and status of an all encompassing identity, to which may stand subservient all the other social identities. No doubt as Benedict Anderson said, a nation is a socially constructed community (54). It is an imagined political community (Anderson 54).
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