The Meaning of Heritage in an Age of Identity

Malik, Kenan

Date Written:  23/03/2018
Year Published:  2018  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22453

A discussion of the meaning of heritage in the current age of identity politics, and why there is a need to reject the nativist, or clash of civilizations, and the multicultural approaches to heritage.



There is nothing new, of course, in mining the past to find the resources through which to reinforce a particular vision of the present. What is different today is the social context in which we define our relationship to the past. We live in an age in which identity has become a central feature of our lives.

But if identity, and identity politics, have become one of the defining issues of the age and a key faultline in contemporary politics, they are also deeply confusing issues. For some, all politics is identity politics. For others, it is an essential component in the defence of the rights of minority groups. For yet others, it is a divisive approach, which has created a more fragmented society, and helped fuel the rise of populism.

Identities are, of course, of great significance. They give each of us a sense of ourselves, of our grounding in the world and of our relationships to others. But the relationship between identity and politics is a complex one. One’s identity, or identities, helps shape one’s political views, and one’s political views gives form to one’s identity. But politics is also, or should also be, a means of taking us beyond the identities given by the specific circumstances of our lives.

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