The Masquerade of Identity

I am not really in the mood of writing about anything tonight. So I guess this will only be a short reflective note. The question is this:

Do you really know who you are?

Some of us would probably answer yes quite confidently. Some would probably say no. And quite a few will no doubt be in between.

I suppose that’s quite normal. On the surface — and for some people —  the answers to the question of identity can be quite plain and simple: man or woman, name, age, family, place of origin, educational background and profession, race, nationality, religious affiliation.

For some others, those who — for some reasons — have been thrown into in-between situations, some of the answers may be difficult or unobvious. I don’t think I need to name what those situations are. In-between-ness is difficult to name, and even if there are ‘convenient’ categories, they can easily become contentious for some ideological, political, or correctness reasons. For this short note, I think it’s better for me to avoid any such contention.

Those who say no have their reasons too, I am sure.

Identity has very little to do with inherent things. They are molded into the subject — the individual — through the various processes that begin even before one is born into this world. An individual’s identity is made or — rather — is continually being made and re-made. It’s dynamic and never-ending processes. It’s always a connotation embedded in a context. And it is the context that makes it have the appearance of being stable — a denotation, albeit temporarily.

Because any perception of identity is contextually made, I think it is impossible for us to know who we really are. What we know of what we are is actually what the context makes us see. It is difficult — if not impossible — to go beyond this knowledge because our knowledge is the very thing that makes us have that awareness.

Our knowledge of our identity is thus nothing more than a contextual masquerade that gives us a face, beyond which there is nothing: an emptiness, a shapeless ‘idea’ (if the ‘idea’ existed at all) — the closest tangible or physical descriptions of which would probably be the character of Mr. Griffin in the G. H. Wells’ science fiction novella The Invisible Man.

Written by Eki Akhwan

April 26, 2012


3 pemikiran pada “The Masquerade of Identity

  1. “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.” – from “V for Vendetta”………..(:

  2. sir, you said that “Identity has very little to do with inherent things”. i always wonder, what’s the different between identity and subjectivity?
    because from the book i read, subjectivity is not inherently found in our intrinsic quality, but it is made by context we live within.
    as for me, the question of identity is a tough thing to answer :p

    1. Citra:
      The difference between identity and subjectivity is indeed very unclear. References to them are often interchangeable. Probably it’s only a matter of who is looking/speaking using what kind of spectacles/theoretical frameworks.

      That’s my understanding.

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