Never thought of myself as post-modern!

Our discussion about the nature of globalization was eye-opening in a couple of ways I didn’t expect.   Let’s talk a little bit about postmodernism to begin.  I’ve heard the term bandied about before but I never knew exactly what it meant. Thankfully, John Sinclair provided a clear and thorough description of postmodernism in his piece.  Sinclair said postmodern theory conceives of an individual subject as being  “composed not of one single and relatively constant identity but, rather, of multiple identities that become mobilized within different cultural discourses (74).”

In the case of my family, I think post-modern is a pretty apt description.  Both of my parents are from Nigeria, and they came to the U.S. for university.  I was born here…right here in Washington, DC in fact so I’m what some call a “first-generation” American.  I had the good fortune to live in Nigeria for a year when I was around 10-years old, but besides studying abroad for a semester, the rest of my time has been spent in this country.  Our discussion of globalization and nationalism over the past couple of weeks inspired some self-reflection….

The culture and traditions of the US very much inform who I am.  Nevertheless, my Nigerian heritage is also a significant part of what makes me who I am today, despite having spent only a fraction of my life there.  This feeling runs counter to the critics of globalization who worry about cultural imperialism.  Identity really isn’t a zero-sum game – my identifying strongly with my Nigerian heritage doesn’t make me feel any less American or vice-versa.  I assume my parents feel the same way.   They became naturalized U.S. citizens a long time ago, but I’m sure they don’t fee any less Nigerian.  They still speak the language (I don’t…unfortunately), cook the food, and occasionally make return-trips to see family.  So, I guess that makes us post-modern?  I am looking forward to telling my mother that she is post-modern – I’m sure she’ll get a kick out of it 🙂



2 Comments to “Never thought of myself as post-modern!”

  1. Interesting perspective. I would agree with you that you are a post-modern. I would call myself a post-modern as well because I have experienced a different culture, and it assimilates in my life. However, I wonder if the label of “post modern” is “selective.” For example, you DID experience a different culture for a while, and your family still practices some of Nigeria’s culture within USA. From my eyes, I see that you deserve every right to call yourself a post-modern because you are living the multi-cultured life. But, what about those who have never experienced other cultures, but practiced only on one culture, and refuse to take in other cultures within USA. Can we label them as post-moderns disregarding they only practice one culture in USA? I have an example of an Indian friend I know. She refused to accept USA’s culture. She still speaks her language, celebrates her culture, and lives in a reservation where everything is preserved. She has never “experienced” another culture, but hers. But does that still make her a post-modern subconsciously because she has her culture in USA? Or is she something else? A hybrid of culture that she chooses not to recognize? To be a post-modern, I would view that the person would need to recognize the different cultures within his/her life and still incorporate them all somehow like you for example. I think my bottom line is that, WHEN do you label someone as a “post-modern[ized]” kind of person?

    With that being said, do share how your mother reacts towards your comment. 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed your thoughts on Post-modernism, Tunde! I agree it’s thrown around a lot and it makes it challenging (as Renca rightly points out in her comment) to know what exactly we mean by it. I guess what we’re curious about here is what counts as “different cultural discourses.” Does that mean incoporating Nigerian culture (i.e. another country) or can it be any kind of culture–academia, work environment, social environment, etc? I think both–an intermixing of identity and shared normative environments is really all that’s needed.

    I personally relate much more to the concept of multiple identities. I have a cultural identity that resonates with me the most in terms of how I was brought up and what norms I’m accustomed to, but I also have a “corporate culture” identity of how I behave in a work setting, and an intercultural identity of the side of me that loves to live in other countries and experience their way of live, and my bi-religious identity of growing up with a mixed faith home and how that affects my in various religious discussions, and generally the variety of identities that surface depending on who I am relating to and what topics we’re discussing. I’m not sure if this is what Sinclair was referencing, but perhaps there are various levels of “post-modern” to consider.

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