Clash of Classifications

thebestHave you seen this video, about giving a genetic test for ancestry/origins to a group of people who each seem to think they’re pure blood?

Sure, it’s basically an ad for a Copenhagen-based travel website, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

See what you think.

While I’m not interested in asserting that a genetic test is the definitive way to figure out who you really are (or hinting that we should celebrate that, underneath it all, we’re all one big happy family), the video is still useful, I think. For it nicely demonstrates not just the fairly recent nature of those national designations that are today so important to how we each identify ourselves but also to make evident the emotional effect of realizing that there’s different ways of identifying oneself.

That such differences resonate deeply for each of us — otherwise, how do you account for the nervousness and tears? — makes evident that those who argue for the social construction of identity are not arguing that identities are somehow fake or not real. Not at all — in fact, it’s quite the opposite. For the ideas of, say, enduring and uniform Frenchness or Britishness, so easily undone for each of the people in this video, are nonetheless very real to them, prompting us to begin to consider not just how one lives in the midst of competing identities but how our apparently arbitrary or ad hoc designations become so real, so tangible, and thus so important, to each of us.

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