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Vol 4, No 1 (2003) > Roth
Volume 4, No. 1, Art. 20 – January 2003
Culture and Identity
Ayan Kaya (2001). “Sicher in Kreuzberg”: Constructing Diasporas: Turkish Hip-Hop Youth in Berlin. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 236 pages (English), ISBN 3-933127-71-8 (paperback), 30.80 EUR
Carl Ratner (2002). Cultural Psychology: Theory and Method. New York: Kluwer/Plenum, 230 pages, ISBN 0-306-46660-0 (hardcover), 64.00 EUR / 55.00 USD / 39.00 GBP, ISBN 3-89334-363-6
(paperback), 68.00 SFR / 35.00 EUR
Abstract: Francisco VARELA (1996) suggested that the ultimate tests of scientific theories are their ability to explain our personal
experience. Although Sicher in Kreuzberg and Cultural Psychology are about culture and identity, I found both books silent about experiences of the Self in everyday praxis. Drawing on activity
theory and reflexive phenomenological hermeneutics as method and praxis, I provide interpenetrating accounts of analysis of my autobiographical experiences of cultural and identity on
the one hand and of Sicher in Kreuzberg and Cultural Psychology on the other. Whereas I highly recommend the first book I am much less convinced by the soundness and usefulness of the second.
Key words: culture, identity, autobiography, activity theory, cultural theory
Table of Contents
2.1 Meanwhile, everything begins
2.2 Culture, activity, and identity
3. Lived and Constructed Cultural Identity: Autobiography
3.1 Pluricultural experiences and identity
3.2 Racism: Markers of difference
3.3 Diaspora and religious boundaries
3.4 Multiculturalism, pluriculturalism
3.5 Person, identity, and lived experience
4. Cultural Psychology
4.1 Content and structure
4.2 Some points of critique
4.3 My personal summary
5. Sicher in Kreuzberg
5.1 Content and structure
5.2 Points of convergence and only minor hesitations
5.3 My personal summary
From the perspective of a reflexive phenomenological hermeneutic, understanding (Verstehen) and explaining (Erklären) stand in a dialectical relation (RICŒUR 1991). Reading a book, analyzing and explaining its structural features and content
presuppose understanding (Verstehen); but the development of understanding presupposes explaining and the structural analysis
it involves. Understanding is required to follow a story and explaining is required “when spontaneous understanding is impeded”
How then does one come to understand and read two books on culture and identity, cultural theory and activity theory, diaspora
and racism? How does one write an analysis of the two books that not only accounts for the dialectical relation of understanding
and explaining but that also embodies it in its very structure the very theory that underpins it—according to the dictum that
the medium is the message (McLUHAN 1995)? Such questions could be stifling perhaps even stopping one from writing at all because
of the chicken-and-egg problem that they pose, especially when we ponder for too long. Yet in a dialectical worldview, contradictions
and aporias are allowed and expected to be central to our human condition. From a pragmatic perspective, one never ponders
too long, for “meanwhile, everything begins” (SERRES 2000, p.56), always and already set in motion by the very condition that
also allows us to think ourselves and the world that surrounds us. 
My review, as everything, also begins, perhaps twice (see 2.1), intertwining understanding and explaining, wandering (using
autobiography in analysis and analysis in autobiography) and putting in opposition (facing columns), autobiographical narrative
and critical analysis, one requiring the other, impossible without the other, even analytically inseparable from the other.
Understanding and explaining are enfolded into one another, close and yet distant as the different parts of the trajectory
of a fly or two randomly chosen pieces in the dough of a baker (PRIGOGINE 1979, SERRES 1983). And yet, while I am writing,
I realize that the story I really want and have to write is an “incompossible” (DERRIDA 1998, p.7) story, one that is impossible
to compose. In its completion, this story, the one you are reading right now, remains fundamentally incomplete, not in the
least because it takes your own understanding and explaining to complete. This text itself is a testimony of the interaction
between understanding, always mine, and the texts I read, always the others’; the text is a coming together and interaction
of Self and Other. 
I am citizen of a country, in which politicians and citizens use “multiculturalism” as a source of pride, an accomplishment,
and a project. I speak French at home. In Vancouver, one of the country’s biggest cities, a language other than one of the
two national languages (English, French) is spoken in more than 50% of homes. Not only is Vancouver ethnically diverse but
people increasingly report multiethnic origins. According to the 1996 census, over 38% of the population in the Greater Vancouver
District reported more than one ethnic origin. In several municipalities, the number of individuals reporting multiple ethnic
origins exceeds 50%. 
What characterizes this new breed of people, those that marry across traditional cultural boundaries and the children that
issue from such unions? Who are we, as a culture? Who are we, as persons? Who am I? Or, who do others understand me to be
after reading the autobiographical notes? What is the culture in reference to which my identity is being constructed? What
is the value of the notion of culture, as in cultural psychology, cultural anthropology, or cultural sociology in a world
that is increasingly characterized by is syncretism, bricolage of culture and bricolage of identity? Perhaps even the notion
of bricolage has to be temporalized, leading to identities that are continuously made and remade, in and being result of practical
activity, in a bricolage fashion from the structural resources at hand (ROTH et al. in press). 
Questions about culture and how it mediates identity are complex, and for those who have never spent time in another culture,
comprise hidden dimensions. On the other hand, those who have moved between cultures, whether as individuals or living as
minority or in a diaspora, often speak of the tremendous personal struggles involved along the lines of ethnicity, language,
and the like. Although the authors of the following two poem excerpts are from quite different cultures and have had quite
different trajectories across cultures, their experiences share some common features. In the poem “Search for my tongue” (BHATT
1988, pp.65-66), addresses the battle between the different tongues in her mouth, the mother tongue that begins to rot while
the foreign tongue could never be known.
You ask me what I mean
And if you lived in a place you had to
The poet had left her native Gujarat and moved to the United States where she received her masters degree in English and,
though she moved to and now lives in Germany, she continued to write in English and Gujarati. “Being bi-cultural,” so the
text on the back cover suggests, “is a mixed blessing,” for being attached to both cultures, BHATT cannot do without either.
A similar experience transpires from the poem “Doppelmann” by the Turkish-German Zafer SENOCAK (1984, p.102). He too writes
about the two worlds within him that pull him in different directions, neither being whole, the split between them running
right through his tongue.
ich habe meine Füße zwei Planeten
ich trage zwei Welten in mir
die Grenze verläuft
ich rüttele daran wie ein Häftling das Spiel an einer Wunde1) 
Both of these poems, as testimonies of a bi-cultural, or shall we say, trans-cultural experience, suggest that the movement
from one cultural context, understood in language and perhaps ethnic terms, is associated with struggles of identity, knowing
who we are when the cultural referents are changing. But my own experience of moving between cultures was different. I deeply
feel, and think of myself, as Canadian, involving all the sensibilities that are often attributed to them in the context of
multicultural society and the tolerance for others, in “othering the other” (KAYA, p.108), that go with it. I do not feel
split but rather, after having lived the two halves of my life in Germany and Canada, feel in a foreign country when I visit
Germany. I hear and presumably comprehend what people say, but do no longer understand. I have a command of English that I
never had of German, though it was my mother’s tongue, the kind of tongue that BHATT cannot seem to spit out, and which continues
to grow back. 
VARELA (1996) suggested that the true test of a (natural) science is individual experience. If we use this dictum, a good
cultural theory of identity and personal experience should be able to explain the rather different experiences expressed by
BHATT and SENOCAK, on the one hand, and my own experience, on the other. Because I know my own experience better than the
two poets’, I will follow VARELA and use it as a test bed for the two books that I have read, and which constituted the starting
point of this inquiry. Thus, my autobiographical reflections emerged from my encounter with the two books, but the review
of the two books necessarily emerged from the encounter of the books with me, this reader. The two texts (Section 3 versus Sections 4 and 5) emerged together, simultaneously, as products of the dialectic
of this particular reader and the text; these texts are similar but they are also different, interacting with one another.
To represent the parallel genesis and nature of the two texts, I chose to place them in two columns, both facing one another
and Janus-like heading into different directions. “I have my feet, two planets/ when they begin to move/ they drag me with
them” (SENOCAK 1984, p.102). 
When these texts are facing one another or rather, seem to look in different directions, I encourage readers to also read
across the column, experience how the two texts, which are also one, talk, interpenetrate, co-inform, and relate to one another.
The additional work that this requires of reading is, in my view, directly related to the work accomplished in separating
the testimony of lived experience, autobiography, from critical reflection on the texts authored by the other and by othering
the other. 
But these two texts also interpenetrate, irremediably bound up with one another forming one text, clearly in Sections 1, 2,
and 6, but also in Sections 3, 4, and 5. In fact, these two texts form a dialectical unit even when they pretend to be separate
and facing one another. 
Traditionally, cultures were approached as something stable, fixed, centered and coherent. Even Michelle and Renato ROSALDO
subscribed for a long time to culture as something stable (“if it’s moving, it isn’t cultural” [ROSALDO 1989, p.209]). Parallel
to this approach to culture is the treatment of identity as stable, fixed, centered and coherent. Although suggesting that
the real character of the roles persons take are a function of the concrete activity and therefore must be empirically ascertained,
Cultural Psychology in fact promotes a stance in which culture and personality are changing little and slowly: “Culture is a system of enduring
behavioral and thinking patterns that are created, adopted, and promulgated by a number of individuals jointly. These patterns
are social (supraindividual) rather than individual, and they are artefactual rather than natural” (RATNER, p.9). Thus, RATNER
cites correlational studies that link socioeconomic status and IQ and other factors, all treated as being independent of the
particular situation; similarly, he proposes to use interviews as a way of accessing moral reasoning using textually presented
dilemmas and assuming that the reasoning exhibited shows the true person (Chapter 6). This view constitutes a holistic notion,
culture as a “highly integrated and grasped static ‘whole'” (KAYAN, p.33), and developed as the dominant paradigm of classical
modernity and the nation state (territoriality). This notion of culture as static has come increasingly under scrutiny, and,
Sicher in Kreuzberg (feeling safe in Kreuzberg [Kreuzberg is a part of former West-Berlin known for its run-down housing and its counter culture
of intellectuals and non-German immigrants]) is but one case study that shows the shortcomings of the holistic notion—I believe
that our Canadian experience detailed below is another counter example. 
The alternative to a holistic perspective is a syncretic notion of culture, which “claims that mixing and bricolage are the
main characteristics of cultures” (KAYAN, p.35). Cultures therefore do not develop along (ethnically, politically) absolute,
fixed lines but in complex dynamic patterns of syncretism. 
It has been noted that a lot of confusion in cultural studies arises from the fact that the notion culture is used in incommensurate
ways (SEWELL 1999).2) On the one hand, culture is a theoretical construct that must be abstracted from social life and is to be distinguished from
biology, politics, or economy, that is, things that are not culture. On the other hand, culture(s) is (are) used to refer
to identifiable subgroups, using the notion isomorphic with society or, more recently, community (of practice). Here the distinction
is between cultures rather than between culture and not-culture. In my reading, RATNER is using the notion of culture more
in the first sense whereas KAYA is using it in the second. 
Two main concepts of culture can be distinguished in the scholarly literature between the 1960s and the 1990s (SEWELL 1999).
On the one hand, there was culture as a system of symbols of meaning, a view championed and promulgated by Clifford GEERTZ
(e.g., 1973) but also, and in a different, linguistically oriented way by Claude LEVI-STRAUSS (e.g., 1958). The main point
of this approach is to disentangle what is viewed as cultural, symbols and meaning, from those things that are not-cultural,
biological, technological, geographic etc. influences. On the other hand, there was the view of culture as practice, which
is, in other words, an emphasis of the performative aspects of culture. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LAVE & WENGER 1991) provides a theoretical framework for understanding culture as practice, including the performative aspects
of the reproduction of culture. That is, the performative approach to culture highlighted the performative dimensions in cultural
transformation and stasis, whereas the system-of-meaning approach explained well the perennial aspects and effects of culture
but had little to say about cultural transformation. BOURDIEU’s (1990) theory of practice, which highlighted the homology
of habitus, structured structuring dispositions, and cultural field, was heavily criticized for the overemphasis on cultural
reproduction and its lack of generative dimensions (e.g., SEWELL 1992). 
The most recent theoretical approaches combine the structural and the performative dimensions into a dialectic unit of structure
and agency (SEWELL 1999). Such an approach has been useful, for example, in the analysis and explanation of cultural extension
in the sciences, which arises as a product of the dialectical tension between (material, social) resistance and accommodation
(PICKERING 1995). Accordingly, human beings, inherently imbued with agency (HOLZKAMP 1983) draw on structures that are located
within themselves (as schema) and in the social and material world for the active production of cognitive and material outcomes
(SEWELL 1992). Activity theory—initially articulated by MARXian (social) psychologists in the former Soviet Union (e.g., LEONT’EV
1978) and further developed largely in Scandinavian countries in recent years (e.g., ENGESTRÖM, MIETTINEN & PUNAMÄKI 1999)—can
be understood in terms of the dialectic of structure and agency because it already contained these elements. More than other
theories, however, activity theory highlights the mediated nature of the relation between the agent and his or her object
generally by other material and social structures, including production means, community, rules, and division of labor. 
Different activity systems are characterized by different ideologies, different cultures. Thus, many scholars are unanimous
about the fact that (North American) schools embody middle-class culture (GEE in press). Students from the middle class, being
endowed with sufficient relevant cultural capital, will succeed in this environment; students with different cultural capital,
one that has currency in the working- and underclasses that they come from, will fail to succeed, if the measure of success
is taken in terms of grades and access to university (ECKERT 1989). Individuals who participate in different activity systems
therefore participate in systems characterized by different values, culture. Their identities, therefore, have to be understood
in terms of the bricolage that they accomplish, continuously, in both maintaining and transforming identity. 
In the past, social research has often dissociated culture and psychology. Culture was used to articulate the relations of
humans to their environment in the context of indigenous, foreign, and strange culture, whereas psychology was reserved for
the relation of “modern” humans to their industrialized environments. Little over a decade ago, one anthropologist noted that
“Social analysts commonly speak, for example, as if ‘we’ have psychology and ‘they’ have culture. Current discussions about
the cultural reasons that other cultures ‘somatize’ (experience ‘their’ afflictions in bodily ways) must be understood in
relation to the unstated norm that human beings should ‘psychologize’ (as Anglo-Americans, or at any rate their therapists,
presumably do).” (ROSALDO 1989, p.202) 
In addition, the human subject engaged in activity is treated as relatively stable; their identities do not seem to change
and therefore constitute static phenomena similar to culture. This is also the approach represented in Cultural Psychology, which provides methodological advice about how to get at stable cultural psychological features—for example, there is little
discussion how the cultural psychology of the Holocaust has arisen historically and how it disappeared. Viewing identities
as static is problematic, as process analyses show—for example, the development of an identity as a member of alcoholics anonymous
or becoming a Mayan midwife (LAVE & WENGER 1991). Here, identities are neither to be seen as something completed nor as ontological
categories that a person takes into a situation. As the converse side of production in activity systems, identity is something
that is continuously made and remade in activity; it is a being in continuous becoming (ROTH et al. in press). It arises from
the dialectic of how we experience ourselves and how others experience us; in regard to ethnicity, KAYA (p.42) suggests that
“identity is the product of a dialogical and dialectical process involving internal and external opinions and processes …
what you think your ethnicity is versus what they think your ethnicity is.” Personal identity should therefore be as much
an outcome of syncretic processes just as culture is an outcome of such processes.
“According to convention, I am not simply what I am doing now. I am also what I have done, and my conventionally edited version
of my past is made to seem almost more the real ‘me’ than what I am at this moment. For what I am seems so fleeting and intangible, but what I was is fixed and final. It is the firm basis for predictions of what I will
be in the future, and so it comes about that I am more closely identified with what no longer exists than with what actually
is.” (WATTS 1957, p.6) 
To me, theorizing identity as a dialectical entity, incorporating the contradiction between sameness and selfhood, is the
currently most convincing approach (RICŒUR 1990). Identity is dialectical, because it always asserts sameness in the face
of difference. This can be seen already in the case of examples that appear rather mundane and unquestionable, such as simple
arithmetic. For example, identity is ascertained (“=”) in the equation 2 + 3 = 3 + 2 (or 2 x 3 = 3 x 2), despite glaring differences—neither
the signs are the same (e.g., different ink points) nor is their order once the sameness of the “2” and “3” appearing on the
left and the “3” and “2” appearing on the right has been ascertained. That there in fact is an identity is because of the
distributive nature of whole numbers with respect to addition. 
This identity is not given when the items combined are two operations such as “flip around horizontal axis through center”
(a) and “counter-clockwise rotation” (b). As Figure 1 shows, a + b (Figure 1.i) does not give the same result as b + a (Figure
1.ii)—the triangle ends up in different orientations. (Mathematically inclined individuals represent the actions in terms
of matrices A (flip) and B (rotate), which operate on some object such as vector x. During introductory lessons on linear algebra, one quickly learns
that A·B x not equal B·A x.)
Figure 1: An example showing that the commutative nature of addition or multiplication in the domain of natural numbers cannot
be generalized to other domains. Here, a reflection on the horizontal axis followed by a counter-clockwise rotation is not
the same as a counter-clockwise rotation followed by reflection on the same axis in the domain of triangles (for a circle,
it would be the same given the axes of reflection and rotation both go through the center). 
Turning to the identity of human beings, the concepts that we develop need to be able to account for the fact that we experience
the sense of sameness (the fifty year old adult pointing to a picture saying “this is me when I was five”) and the sense of
difference (the Nazi perpetrators described by RATNER, who were loving and protecting with their children, but who turned
into barbaric killing machines at work in the concentration camp). 
I am interested in identity, not the construct, but identity as a lived experience. In this sense, it is a dialectical construct,
I have lived (or stayed for longer periods) in many countries. I have roomed, befriended, married etc. individuals from many
But who am I? What is my cultural identity? I speak three languages rather fluently, but I speak all three with an accent.
Through traveling, I came to realize that it is not nations or ethnicities that matter but the behavior of people in face-to-face
My family, especially on my mother’s side, consists of travelers in foreign lands, visiting, living, or working in countries
When I was seven, I too began spending my summer holidays camping in Italy, later Spain and Yugoslavia, France, and many other
Because our experiences form our bodies and more precisely, the very dispositions that are at the origin of our patterned
In fifth and sixth grade, I had a friend Joseph from an influential German-Jewish family (today, he too is a leader of the
Since then, I have lived or stayed with people of different ethnic backgrounds, including Asian, North American Indian, African
But there are markers of difference that are used in the “othering” of others. Racism appears deeply embodied not only in
I remember the train stations as meeting places for Gastarbeiter; there appeared to be more Gastarbeiter at the train stations meeting in their different groups and according to country of origin than travelers of German origin.
Differences along the lines of language were made not only between languages, the mother tongue (German) and everything else
Sicher in Kreuzberg evoked many memories in me, sometimes through the simple use of a word. One of these was “Aussiedler,” which is defined as
Racism sits deep. Garlic was an object that marked difference, more or less foreign to the German kitchens at the time, at
The second happened one night when we traveled on the train—perhaps it was after our car broke down coming back from Yugoslavia.
It would have been interesting to see such developments theorized in terms of activity theory in Cultural Psychology. How do distinct preferences for tastes and smells develop in children, and how do these preferences become markers for cultural
Cleanliness (streets, houses, etc.) was another marker of difference, which we learned while traveling through France or into
Although my grandfather rejected the Nazi atrocities when he found out about them, although he was a world traveler, he still
But racism is not something isolated to Germans. The U.S. American society, for example, is fundamentally racist, forcing
When I lived in Mississippi during the eighties, evidence of racism abounded. A man leaving the house when his wife, children,
But one did not have to go to the “Deep South” to experience racism. During the mid-eighties in Martinsville, Indiana, members
I lived in northern Bavaria where Catholics inhabited most villages (though some other villages were dominated by a protestant
When I was about eighteen, I asked my religion teacher who was also pastor (religion classes were compulsory in those days),
In Canada, we encourage (sometimes requiring legal precedent) difference all the while, through participation in shared activity,
Teaching here on the Canadian West Coast requires particular sensitivities to the plurality of patterns on which individuals
Perhaps multiculturalism may lead to the abandonment of the concept of culture, especially if, as KAYA’s text suggests, culture
Over the years, I have found it increasingly difficult to say who “I” am; certainly not voluntarily do I talk about German
In both books, it was difficult to discern what it means to be a human being, making decisions in the specific context that
“We can construct our identities only if we are able to experience others’ reactions to our attitudes and behaviour. Unless
But such approaches miss an important aspect of human existence: the daily, personal experience of life, the experience of
Who is the person who equally enjoys reading DERRIDA (1998) on monolingualism, KAYA (2001) on hip-hop culture, or a sociohistorical
For me the most troublesome aspect in much of social research, one that neither modern nor postmodern scholarship has sufficiently
In my present life, there are many moments of complete abandonment to the present moment, in writing research, tending to
Where there are no words
Being able to abandon Self 
The experience is reflected in the story of HYAKUJO, when asked what was the most wonderful thing, replied “Alone sit Daiyu
Can we still talk about cultural identity when the very tools and processes for “constructing” identities, representation
Cultural Psychology is divided into two parts: theory (Part 1) and method (Part 2). Throughout the book, RATNER declares his commitments to activity
In the second chapter, individualistic approaches to agency, those that treat psychological phenomena independent of culture,
I am not fond of directing the critique of issues at authors as persons. “Valsiner’s antagonism between individual agency
Part 2 (Method) of Cultural Psychology contains four chapters that deal with the implications of activity theory for cultural psychological research (Chapter 3),
Individually and taken together, these chapters do not add new content to the methodological literature. Rather, they more
I wondered about the rhetorical work to be accomplished by the proliferation of adjectives that in other context (e.g., APA
The particular section from which I drew these quotes is interesting because it struck me, upon first reading, as an exaggerated
“They enthusiastically hunted out the Jews from hiding places when they could have searched less diligently and allowed the
As I was reading statements such as these, I thought that the same sentences could be used or some variation to describe the
To me, Cultural Psychology is not convincing, because I read the texts that appeared in different parts as inconsistent. The statement that behavior
To me, many methodological recommendations made in Cultural Psychology appeared highly problematic and inconsistent with the theoretical framework that it establishes in the first chapter. For
“But [an agent who possesses a practical mastery] is no better placed to perceive what really governs his practice and to
I also found the text to portray a very simplistic view of the nature of science. For example, the statement “His conclusions
Again, all the insistence (using intensifying adjectives) gives rise to a sense that the data and interpretation cannot stand
There are other inconsistencies as well. For example, “only sophisticated [!] social scientists grasp the historical, cultural
The text makes claims that seem to be inconsistent. On the one hand, the text contains statements such as “Labeling an individual
The aspect I found most curious were the constant referrals to another book by the same author, Cultural Psychology and Qualitative Methodology: Theoretical and Empirical Considerations (RATNER 1997). Throughout Cultural Psychology, readers are referred to the book that preceded it, to specific sequences of pages and entire chapters. I was constantly
Cultural Psychology was a great disappointment. I had picked this text because of my work in the area of activity theory and cultural psychology.
Sicher in Kreuzberg is the product of the author’s doctoral dissertation work, submitted the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University
In the introduction, the study is contextualized in terms of the “universe of the research,” how rapport was developed with
In the second chapter, diaspora is introduced as a theoretical tool in the toolbox of the cultural sociologist (anthropologist)
Chapter 3 then provides a detailed description of the particular context of Kreuzberg 36, a district of the municipality, which has become known as “Kleines [Little] Istanbul.” Readers find there descriptions of
In the following chapter, the discursive construction of the “home” for diasporic individuals, which is here and not-here
Chapter 5 articulates the cultural sources of identity formation processes among Turkish working-class youth, including the
Throughout the process of reading, re-reading, and commenting upon the Sicher in Kreuzberg, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book passed the “would you recommend it to graduate students or colleagues” with a “strongly
Although I had seen graffiti before, I had never thought about it in either positive or negative terms. But while reading
Increasing connections across formerly distant territories, physically or via the electronic media, allows us to have experiences
Cultural bricolage, or creolization, leads to the transgression of traditionally defined cultures along the lines of nation
Another interesting observation, which unfortunately was not contextualized in terms of the literature of the politics of
But the situation in Berlin perhaps also shows us that our analytic schemes need to be refined. It is not just that the municipality
One qualm pertains to the data. As a qualitative researcher, I do understand that using audio- or videotapes can change the
I also thought that there should have been more, other, complementary data. For example, I really wanted a map of the area
There were some minor contradictions, either in the book or between statements in the book and my own experience. For example,
The text suggests that “multiculturalism assumes that cultures are internally consistent, unified and structured wholes, belonging
In cultural historical activity theory, the entities that make a system are not conceived as independent but aspects of mediated
However, despite agreeing I take this statement cum grano salis4), particularly with respect to the ideas of identity as being acquired and the distinction between internal and external world.
“Before the reunification, the West German tourists often used to visit Kreuzberg just to have a quick look without getting
Situations such as that ask for a much more differentiated approach when seen in the context of other situations that bear
I read this book at a moment that an ailing health prevented me engages in most activities that a scholar normally engaged
Time has come to change our ideas about culture and identity. The concept of culture is based on experiences of rootedness,
stasis, and fixity that were associated with the activity systems of yesteryear, animal husbandry and agriculture. Now, in
an age where electronic technologies give us new experiences of relating to others, where former experiences of proximity
are expanded to include anyone connected to the Internet, there is a need to look at culture in a new way. The new concept
has to be capable of operating against the inner character of culture to account for the syncretic nature of the new cultural
identities. The “multi-” in multicultural must expand so much that the fragments are better understood as pieces serving the
bricolage—all culture will be cultural bricolage.
“The construction of diasporic cultural identity derives from cultures and histories in negotiation, collision and dialogue.
Diasporic identity is a disaggregated identity, and it disrupts the very categories of identity because it is not national,
not genealogical, not religious, but all of these in dialectical tensions with one another.” (KAYA, p.80) 
In this active exchange with the two books, I have been working myself toward a conception of identity that lives with and
through rather than despite difference. Identity is a constant production and reproduction of Selves, through transformation
and difference. But there are other aspects that of experience that require a different conception than the process of “construction.”
Much work remains to be done. 
1) The translation goes about like this: I have my feet, two planets/when they begin to move/they drag me with them/I am falling//I
carry two worlds within me/ but neither one is whole/they’re continuously bleeding//the border runs/right through the middle
of my tongue//Like a prisoner I am shaking it/the play with a wound. KAYA (p.204) quotes the middle part of this poem, which
he knew through SUHR (1989). <back>
2) LEVI-STRAUSS (1958, pp.77-78) already discussed existing problems in anthropology that arose from the confusion of the two
notions of culture. <back>
3) Whether this information is absolutely accurate is not quite clear. During a search to verify the information I received when
I lived in Bloomington, Indiana, near Martinsville, I found a website that suggested that a dinner in honor of an African
American would provide “chances for improving the tolerance climate in Martinsville” (http://www.words-at-work.com/dateline.htm [visited September 10, 2002]). This suggests that there are still issues concerning the tolerance of African Americans that
the community is working on. However, at least one website suggests that the KKK stories about “Martinsville as KKK headquarters”
are “bunk” (see http://scican.net/MAPH/MAPHch13.html [visited Sept. 10, 2002; Broken link, FQS, December 2004]). The website
of tolerance.org no longer lists a hate group of any kind in the community of Martinsville. <back>
4) Using Latin expressions is a cultural practice, accepted in German academic circles but rejected and even despised in Anglo-Saxon
scholarly communities. My using them is an aspect of the hybrid identity that is co-constitutive of an autobiography involving
different cultural contexts. <back>
Bhatt, Sujata (1988). Brunizem. New York: Carcanet.
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Wolff-Michael ROTH is Lansdowne Professor of applied cognitive science at the University of Victoria. His interdisciplinary research agenda
includes studies in science and mathematics education, general education, applied cognitive science, sociology of science,
and linguistics (pragmatics). His recent publications include Re/Constructing Elementary Science (with K. Tobin and S. Ritchie, Peter Lang, 2001), At the Elbows of Another: Learning to Teach by Coteaching (with K. Tobin, Peter Lang, 2002), Science Education as/for Sociopolitical Action (ed. with J. Désautels, Peter Lang, 2002), and Being and Becoming in the Classroom (Ablex Publishing, 2002).
Lansdowne Professor, MacLaurin Building A548, University of Victoria, BC, V8W 3N4, Canada
E-mail: [email protected]
Roth, Wolff-Michael (2003). Culture and Identity. Review Essay: Ayan Kaya (2001). “Sicher in Kreuzberg” Constructing Diasporas:
Turkish Hip-Hop Youth in Berlin / Carl Ratner (2002). Cultural Psychology: Theory and Method [94 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 4(1), Art. 20, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0301204.