Volume 3   Number 1      Fall 2008

Culture and Identity in Anthropology: Reflections on 'Unity' and 'Uncertainty' in the Dialogical Self
Toon van Meijl
Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
pp. 165-190   (pdf)
ABSTRACT. The dialogical self is a very useful concept for the analysis of the multiple identifications of individuals in multicultural circumstances that are so characteristic of the contemporary era of globalisation. It complements the dynamic conception of culture that has emerged in anthropology in recent decades, while it has a number of advantages over the traditional concept of identity. This article discusses the development of the concept of culture in anthropology as well as the parallel debate about the notion of cultural identity in anthropology in order to demonstrate that the notion of the dialogical self to some extent overcomes the difficulties with the concept of identity in the analysis of the dialogical interaction between different conceptions of culture within the self of individuals. At the same time, however, this article aims at showing that the theory of the dialogical self may also benefit from anthropological debates about multiple identifications in multicultural situations, which indicate that bicultural individuals are not necessarily hampered by ‘uncertainty’ whereas the dialogue within their self does not automatically culminate in ‘unity’ either.  
Keywords:  anthropology, globalisation, culture, identity, dialogical self, uncertainty, unity