Essay on Cultural Identity Theory

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The issue of cultural identity is a broad field, comprising various viewpoints and ideas, concerning what it is and how it can be defined. Cultural Identity Theory (Collier & Thomas, 1988; Collier, 1998) revealed the issue from a phenomenological perspective, emphasizing the complex process of creating, negotiating, and asserting cultural identity in communication with in-groups and out-groups. (Harapan,2016)

Tibet, called “Bod” by Tibetans, or 西藏 (Xīzàng) by the Chinese, is a plateau region in Central Asia and the indigenous home to the Tibetan people. With an average elevation of 16,000 feet, (4,900 meters) it is the highest region on earth and is commonly referred to as the 'Roof of the World.' It is bounded on the N. by Turkestan, on the E. by China, on the W. by Kashmir and Ladak, and on the S. by India, Nepal, and Bhutan. It has an area of over 1,000,000 sq. m., and an estimated population of about 3,000,000, being very sparsely inhabited.

Tibet developed a distinct culture due to its geographic and climatic conditions. While influenced by neighboring cultures from China, India, and Nepal, the Himalayan region's remoteness and inaccessibility have preserved distinct local influences and stimulated the development of its distinct culture.

Tibetan Buddhism has exerted a particularly strong influence on Tibetan culture since its introduction in the seventh century. Tibetan cultural influences extend to the neighboring nations of Bhutan, and Nepal, adjacent regions of India such as Sikkim and Ladakh, and adjacent provinces of China where Tibetan Buddhism is the predominant religion.

The Tibetans, one of the largest ethnic minority groups in China, are well-known in the world because of their unique natural environment and distinctive culture and religion. What follows is some background information on Tibetans and their geographic distribution in China prior to a discussion of Tibetan culture and religion. ( A General Introduction to Tibetan Culture and ReligionLobsangGelek,2014)

Tibetan peoples often defined their own identities in terms of religious beliefs, ties to traditional culture, and geographic locations. For instance, they introduced themselves by expressing which monasteries they belonged to and which religious sects and spiritual Lamas that they followed. Therefore, their goals of worldly life and the essence of both group and individual identities were deeply submerged in the religious culture. ( Mang Jia,2015)

Tibetan culture like any other culture, is often represented as if it is a timeless and essential thing, rather than something dynamic and constructed. (Trine Brox)

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In many cultures, languages, accents, and dialects can emerge as the most salient dimensions of group identity and, likewise (although not disputing the core relevance of dress styles, foods, and unique forms of Buddhism and, hence, lifestyles), the distinctive Tibetan language and literature is central to understanding their cultural identity( Dorjee,2015)

The Tibetan culture enjoys massive popularity among non-Tibetans taking an interest in the Buddhist spiritual tradition, as well as social, political, and personal solutions based on ethical principles. The ethical basis is grounded and reflected in this tradition but surpasses its boundaries. The value that the global community can obtain from the Tibetan cultural tradition, in the long run, motivates to pose a question of how the tradition is being maintained by the culture bearers. ( Harapan, 2016)

Culutural identity construct (eva k. neumier)

Literature review:

Mang Jia(2015) argued that the transformation of Tibetan cultural identity consciousness from spiritual domination to secularization is an undeniable reality. Chinese authorities have tried to submerge Tibetan identity within Chinese cultural hegemony by promoting school education and economic development and Tibetans are using secularization as a way to resist and confront those challenges they succeeded in many ways, such as promoting their political consciousness by studying political knowledge since they got language skills in school.

Neumaier talks about the challenges faced by the Tibetan culture regarding modernization. According to her Tibetan people are solely devoted to the pursuit of spiritual awareness and averse to all materialistic and worldly gains; a country united as a nation under the leadership of a bodhisattva, i.e. the Dalai Lama, who leads the Tibetans along a path of compassion and non-violence only to be brutally attacked and destroyed by the evil of Communist China.

Trine Brox() explained how the term ‘Tibetan Culture’ is used as a political strategy, he termed Tibetan culture as Battlefield. He argued that Tibetan culture is a field for struggle, where contesting discourses seek to define and represent the culture in different ways. Tibetan culture has been instrumentalised and made into a central pillar of discourse in the Dalai Lama’s and the Tibetan Government in Exile’s main aim: namely self-determination in Tibet. They incorporated the concept of Tibetan culture to serve political purposes.

Dorji, Giles, and Barker (2011) talk about the cultural identity in the Tibetan diaspora, they focussed on the intercultural communication climate of the Tibetan exiles in India. And found that Tibetans (irrespective of whether they identified more or less with the Tibetan ingroup) were reportedly accommodative. The Tibetan diaspora in India has over 50 years of experience in accommodating its host country, India; despite its low vitality, Tibetans there have managed to preserve their identity and culture, including language. Potentially, this could give hope to other diaspora around the world, especially those low in group vitality, that they could preserve their native language and culture while adjusting to the host environment and its languages.

According to Sharapan(), the preservation of the Tibetan cultural tradition is a truly important issue in terms of maintaining cultural diversity in the modern globalizing world. The aspects of their culture worth preserving are named to be: religious values, language, and allegiance to Tibet. The factors, enhancing the preservation of the Tibetan culture are thought to be community and settlement living, education, in-group marriages, and staying in bigger refugee communities. All the respondents were optimistic about their cultural longevity.

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