What is cultural identity?

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Jul 20, 2018
What is cultural identity?

C ultural identity is a person’s preferred identification – a mixture of factors that have influenced and still influence a person – from birth to the present. It consists of the combination of these attributes that he identifies with: nationality, race, language, social class, ethnicity, religion, and gender. Mix these with his heritage, tradition , norms and his cultural identity can be defined. As a result, the definition of cultural identity is not definite or singular – it is complex and involves a lot of aspects and considerations. Simply put, only you and nobody else can determine your cultural identity.

Cultural Identity Discussion

What is my cultural identity?

Let’s say your mother is French and Catholic, your father is Japanese and  Buddhist. You were born, raised, and living in a middle-class New York City neighborhood. You grew up in a household without religion, one that was dominated by neither French nor Japanese influence – it was a mixture of both. The result is you are fluent in both French and Japanese and of course, English. You wish to identify as Japanese because you speak Japanese and you strongly identify with them when you visit your Japanese relatives. 

But primarily, you choose to identify as American because you were born, educated, and currently live in the United States. Your cultural identity is completely up to you, depending on the context of the question and the surrounding circumstances. Only you can write about your cultural identity . As long as you are comfortable, you could be any or all of these: Eurasian, Japanese, French, American, Catholic, Buddhist. In other words, your cultural identity is diverse.


The concept of cultural identity belongs to many fields, both inside and outside academic circles – sociology, anthropology, psychology, history , political science, cultural arts, and mass communication. When used in a non-academic context, the concept of cultural identity functions as a way to determine who is who and who belongs to which - it serves to identify and categorize people in nations and societies that are comprised of many races, ethnicities, religions, and cultures.

Cultural identity today and beyond

Studies about cultural identity were first conducted in the 1960s in countries where there is huge immigration and many different cultures – like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Studies began because of negative factors brought by multiculturalism – for example, in the United States during the 1960s, studies began to be conducted due to the racial tension and the fight for civil rights by African Americans and other minorities. As of now, cultural identity remains a concept under further study, with no solid definition or principles aside from what has been stated earlier. It is especially important in multicultural nations and societies. On the other hand, its importance is not that emphasized in nations that are not multicultural – most countries in Asia and some in Europe come to mind. The progress of the study of cultural identity depends on the amount of knowledge shared by both multicultural and non-multicultural nations and societies. But with current advances brought by  globalization, the enrichment of its definition is surely possible in the near future.

Relevant to the issue of cultural identity is the question of home. Your cultural identity is your home - the result of the various factors that have shaped your life and which you willingly choose to identify with:

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