On Neutral Ground and Identity

Matthew Stoloff (Magnus2@IX.NETCOM.COM)
Sat, 16 Sep 1995 14:30:41 -0700

>Tibor Benke <benke@SFU.CA> wrote:

>The trouble is, "there ain't no neutral ground".

Why is it so important to find a neutral ground, and what would be the
significance? Incidently, what is a neutral ground? Is it merely one
race-one ethnicity-one culture? Or is it somewhere between China ancestry
and English ancestry?

>As for me, (though for different reasons, I am upset too) I am a stranger
>in a strange land. I am not a Hungarian; though I speak the language
>fluently and without an accent, I doubt if I could pass for a native in
>Budapest for any more then a half hour. Though I lived and was schooled in
>the US for 11 years, I am certainly not American, though many of my
>political, philosophical, aesthetic, etc. ideas were formed in the States.
>I am a Canadian citizen and my children see themselves as Canadians of
>Hungarian and American background (their mother is American), and Canada is
>a supposedly a "multi-ethnic mosaic", I am neither Hungarian-Canadian, nor
>"plain vanilla" Canadian. Sometimes I feel like a homeless person and
>orienting myself is a constant struggle. Though I've never done fieldwork,
>I feel as if I were on a permanent field trip.

The struggle for identity is supposedly the "greatest struggle of the
highest kind." Why do some individuals spend their time trying to figure
out what culture and ethnicity they belong to, when they can be more
productive in life? It seems to me that the concepts of independence and
individuality are diminished in the generality of culture. Mr. Benke's
paragraph above states one of the reasons why I am interested in
anthropology; I want to understand why some people have this *need* to
"belong" to a particular group (including those who aren't apt to). To
answer this question is not easy, and requires indepth understanding and
clarification.... Certainly, my studies in philosophy have led me to
formulate my own opinions, and I'd like to contrast my ideas with those of
anthropologists and interested students.

Matthew Stoloff