The BBC’s Reith Lectures for 2016 are underway and this year they are presented by philosopher and cultural theorist Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah under the title of “Mistaken Identity”. At a time where identity is endlessly discussed and defined – Republican or Democrat, pro-EU or Brexit, gay or straight, the four lectures will cover aspects of identity; Creed, Country, Colour and Culture and show that identity isn’t a binary choice between one adjective or another.
Kwame Anthony Appiah says: “We live in a world where the language of identity pervades both our public and our private lives. We are Muslim and Christian, so we have religious identities. We are English and Scottish, so we have national identities. We are men and women, and so we have gender identities. And we are black and white, and so we have racial identities. There is much contention about the boundaries of all of these identities. Not everyone accepts that you have to be a man or a woman; or that you can’t be both an Englishman and a Scot. You can claim to be of no religion or gender or race or nation. Perhaps, in each case, someone will believe you. And that is one reason why the way we often talk about these identities can be misleading.”
Two of the programmes have already been broadcast, Creed and Country, and are available online or as podcasts for download. I found both episodes interesting: Creed for its historical perspective on religions and how in the past religion was more of a verb than noun, and Country appealed to me as an individual who can legitimately claim some level of citizenship with four different countries (where my parents are from, where I was born, where I grew up and where I have lived the longest). Prof Appiah is an entertaining speaker and there’s a good deal of fun and wit in among the insights.
Put aside the tech news for an hour and consider something more profound than the latest product refresh from Apple.