Have you not ever felt a sense of incongruity with the word “identity”?
It is not an unfamiliar word. You have certainly heard it many times, and have actually used it. But somehow, you are not entirely comfortable with it. It does not correspond with your own living experience. Haven’t you ever felt this way?
When investigating a certain phenomenon of interest, no matter what it is and where it belongs, you cannot ignore previous studies and what they have accomplished. We should certainly learn what we can from them. However, my belief is that we should not let things end there. We must squarely face our sense of incongruity toward the existing disciplines and the basic terminologies they use. I firmly believe that this is more important than learning from them.
The word “identity” is used in the context of phenomena such as ethnic conflicts, religious confrontations, indigenous people’s movements, and the separatist and independence movements and nationalism that are taking place in many places around the world. Identity has been considered to be at the core of those phenomena.
This is not only used in the narratives of the mass media, NGOs and international organizations. Researchers also speak in similar terms. For example, they try to understand occurrences in local societies in Indonesia – various kinds of conflicts, hostilities and politics – in terms of identity. This is how we are taken into the language-game of identity.
This game presupposes that identity exists. Therefore, as far as we are in the game, we put away the slight sense of incongruity we felt toward the word “identity”, somewhere.
We can, however, say “I am quitting,” and stop playing the game (even for a short time). Then we can explore where this feeling of incongruity originates from. Let us embark on this quest for a while.