Ambiguities of global and transnational collective identities

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Abstract

As traditional categories of collective identity are in decline and brought into question, the process of defining shared perceptions of ‘us’ and ‘them’ by new markers and new mechanisms seems more important than ever. In the article, I summarize basic aspects of collective identity formation in the ongoing processes of globalization and transnationalization and discuss the basic challenges of collective identity in the twenty-first century. I present different ideal types of border-crossing collective identities in terms of the patterns of their spatial reach. Two of these types of collective identity –‘global humanism’ and ‘transnational collective identities’– are discussed in more detail, especially concerning their ambiguities of universal and/or particularistic character. I conclude that the global collective identity of ‘humanism’ is not as global as it appears at first glance, and that transnational collective identities usually refer to the authority of a stated global collective identity. Given these genuine interrelations between global humanism and transnational (and other spatial patterns of) collective identities, the future seems destined to be shaped by an intertwined ‘as-well-as’ relation rather than an ‘either–or’ relation between the different types of collective identities.

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