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Cultural bondage and identity

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One's identity is closely linked to the place one comes from or lives. Sharing a common heritage and culture enhances one's sense of belonging to a specific place and community. It can lead to a deep sense of pride in one's roots, culture, country, region, town or place.

I A strong sense of belonging

1 Patriotism

Words like fatherland, motherland or homeland show the strong emotional link between people and the country they are from. People are proud of their national identity. In Ivanhoe (1819), Walter Scott creates the national myth of the fusion of Normans and Saxons into a united English people. By bringing opposed interests together, a single identity is forged.

As Rupert Brooke's poem The Soldier (1915) stresses, England is a treasure to hold dear, worth fighting for and dying for. The soldier's death even adds to its glory.

2 Celebrating one's culture and heritage

People celebrate their culture and heritage through literature, arts, sport, and even food. It enables them to claim their identity and to show how proud of their roots they are. Such is the case with the Celtic Revival in the 19th and 20th centuries, whose main concerns were Ireland's historic past, its myths, legends and folklore. Poet and playwright William Butler Yeats was a driving force of that literary movement.

People rally around their cultural heritage. The Highland Games, yearly traditional events, embody the link that bonds Scottish people together. So do such traditions as Robert Burns Night on the 25th of January. That strong sense of belonging is also expressed whenever Flower of Scotland by the Corries (1967) is sung at rugby matches.

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During Robert Burns Night, Scottish people gather together for a special supper, which includes reading Robert Burn's poem Address to a Haggis and traditional dance.

II Transmission of traditional heritage

1 Landmarks

To maintain that sense of belonging, it is necessary to transmit traditional heritage. Such is the role of the American National Park Service in the USA or of the National Trust in Great Britain which is a charity devoted to maintaining and developing historical, cultural and natural heritage.

Artists contribute to that transmission too: John Constable painted idyllic country landscapes as in The Hay Wain (1821), thus transmitting his love for rural life. Thomas Hardy also chanted country life and nature in his poems, thus portraying the place he belongs. Commemorating the past partakes of the same process: Poppy Day marks the end of World War I and pays tribute to the many soldiers who died in Flanders as first portrayed in John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields (1915).

2 Sharing one's culture

The sense of belonging is affected by migration. It is important to preserve the link with one's roots. Yet, it is equally important to share one's culture to contribute to building a new national identity. It is at stake in Benjamin Zephaniah's poem The British (2000). Similarly, the Notting Hill Carnival in London celebrates West Indian culture and highlights the contribution of the Afro-Caribbean community to British culture. It is considered as an icon of Britain.

Black History Month, every February in the USA since 1976, and the National Museum of African American History in Washington since 2016, have enabled Afro-Americans to claim their past heritage, to show how they contri­buted to building the nation and to stress their role in American history.

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