“You are the Shenzhen person once you come here!” It was a slogan for attracting alien workers. I truly know someone who told me he was inspired by the sentence to come Shenzhen. But strangely, seldom individuals recognised themselves as Shenzhen citizens when I ask their self-identification.
Several years ago, I wildly criticised the idea of self-identification in a homework about academic writing:
Identity is a word which has been abused widely. First of all, the definition of identity is important. Norton (1997, pp. 409-429) defines identity as “how people understand their relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how people understand their possibilities for the future”. Thus, identity or cultural identity is something concerned with personal understanding. As a result, if one feels so called “lack of identity”, the problem should be mainly about individual’s misunderstand on his or her circumstance. In other words, assume that he or she understand the situation, this kind of identity problem is no longer existed. That is to say, one’s capability of comprehension decided if the individual will be confused by cultural identity.
In the way I look it again now, it seems like a sophistry. “All theory, dear friend, is grey; but the precious tree of life is green.” Maybe most people living in Shenzhen have no idea about self-identity in terms of academic way, but I believe the feeling of inexpressible loneliness and confusion is vivid.
After four months in Shenzhen, as a Shanghainese, I start to understand this feeling somehow. The city is full of energy, like Las Vegas, but after all, it is ruthless that people have little willing to become migrators.
Norton, B. (1997). Language identity and the ownership of English. TESOL Quarterly, 31,3.