A few responses

August 26, 2007 at 9:49 pm (blog)

Just answered some questions to an academic researcher on culture. Posted for the interest Soul Bean readers.

What are the major features of your cultural identity?
Primarily, I am a native English-language speaker. Then, I am a speaker of British English. I am also a fluent but not native speaker of Persian. Add why I speak these languages (my history as the child of Iranian immigrants and the shared histories of Iran and the UK) to the fact that I am a non-white and you have the crackle on the radio that is cultural identity. Language is the dial which a writer uses to arrive at a reception, or conception of the self, free from interference. But of course, like the Russian Vega radio my dad struggled with in the 1980s, to listen to BBC Persian broadcasts, the crackle always wins.

2. What role does nation play in this?
Downstairs (I am at my father’s study, as I write) a satellite TV station is broadcasting a performance of the famous Iranian singer Elahe, who died this week. This afternoon my mother attended a memorial service in honour of the singer at the Churchill hotel in London. I asked my mother why she felt the need to attend. She said she wanted to pay her last respects. My grandmother who is visiting from Iran is watching TV too. She cannot read or write, is ill and will soon leave for Iran. Not having spent my childhood with her, there is little to connect me to my grandmother other than a history linked inextricably to other Iranian personal histories (and, more widely, to other colonised peoples’). My father just arrived. He has been in Cologne for two days to do a stand-up comedy show in support of political prisoners in Iran (he’s a well-known satirist). Nation is downstairs.

3. Are you comfortable with how others define your cultural identity?
In order to answer the question, we would have to define who the ‘others’ are and to specify instances when one’s cultural identity is ‘defined’. Broadly speaking, as far as representation and the mass media are concerned, one would have to say both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Interestingly, this response is intended to sit among others from people identified as ‘cultural interfaces’. I had never thought of myself as an interface, a word one with computer hardware.
But still, I was charmed by the definition.

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