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Emily Gray

Lisa Orta

English 126

4 November, 2018

The City Of Identity

Identity is one of the things that we, as humans, strive our whole lives to

understand and create. People want to know who they are. They want to have an

identity that helps to define them in positive ways, something that was formed by what

they were born into ​and ​what they chose for themselves. And nowhere is this truer than

in London. In a city filled with such diversity - in culture, race, ethnicity, sexuality,

personality, and in every way possible - finding one’s identity is so important. It's a way

to stand out as an individual, and yet also a way to bring people closer together.

Knowing someone who a person may have thought they had nothing in common with,

actually has an identity that they can identify with in some way, can bring people

together. It helps form the bonds of a stronger community to know that everyone is an

individual, and yet can all work together to make that community.

In the report, "London Identities," published by Nicolas Bosetti and Tom

Colthorpe on the ​Centre For London​ in April, 2018, the authors talk about the London

identity, and how it has been formed by who they are, how they grew up, and the

communities they’re in now. Bosetti and Colthorpe discuss how the London Identity has
changed over the past 4 or so years: the effect of Brexit, the growing diversity of the

city, and the widening financial class gap. The authors also discuss how a big part of

the London identity is nationality - do people consider themselves Londoners, English,

British, European, or all or none of the above? What Bosetti and Colthorpe are trying to

get across is that London has its own specific identity more than other big cities, and

that it has changed over time.

So what exactly is the “London Identity” anyways? There are a ton of factors,

such as ethnicity, nationality, if you were born in London, and even the specific London

neighborhood. While some people identify with a overall London identity, some people

go even further as to identify with their specific area of London. As Bosetti and

Colthorpe noted that objectively, from a 2012 Britain Thinks poll, “A third of those who

identified as Londoners actually preferred a more local identity: they said they were

North, South, East or West Londoners above all” (Bosetti & Colthorpe 7). London is

such a big city that it makes sense that people would chose a smaller area to identify

with. But it goes even further than that. Social class and ethnicity also play a role in

whether someone identifies with greater London, or their specific area. It was found that

there is a stronger sense of local identities in areas with stigmas attached, or that are

associated with certain ethnicities (Bosetti & Colthorpe 7). As for class, it was found that

middle-class Londoners were more likely to identify with London as a whole, rather than

a specific area (Bosetti & Colthorpe 10). Bosetti and Colthorpe are using these polls to

back the credibility of their arguments. They aren’t just subjectively stating something to

be true, but backing it up with objective evidence.


As London has developed and grown, it has taken in more and more people from

all over the world, and thus become significantly more diversified, and continues to

become more diversified every year. This is exaggerated by the fact that “White British

Londoners have left the city at three times the rate of ethnic minorities” (​Bosetti &

Colthorpe ​12). Logically, this proves that as London has become more diverse, people

of non-white ethnicities have found it to feel safer, and therefore don’t leave. Whereas

people of white ethnicity don’t face the same issues, and so find no problem with

moving to areas outside of the city. Bisotti and Colthorpe also appeal to their readers

sense of passion for their chosen identity, when they talk about how people who live in

London, and consider themselves Londoners, aren't just the ones who were born there.

They even go so far as to say that, subjectively, "Belonging to a city seldom requires

being 'born and bred' there. The London identity is, it seems, relatively easily and swiftly

acquired" (​Bosetti & Colthorpe ​4). The identity of London, if anything, is getting stronger

from this diversity. All of these different peoples and cultures just make it a more

interesting and lively city to identify with.

As a student that is just studying abroad here for three months, and not truly

living here long term, I didn't think I would really identify myself as a Londoner in any

way. However, as I was returning from the airport over break, I had a family looking

completely lost and helpless who looked to me for direction. I was able to confidently

and correctly direct them on their way, and in that moment, I felt like a Londoner. I won't

be able to claim that identity for long, but I think that's one of the other beautiful things

about the London Id​entity - that is so accessible. Bosetti and Colthorpe even objectively
point out in their report that “ten per cent of London’s population move in and out of the

city every year” (Bosetti & Colthorpe 3). So whether somebody's here for a short time,

or a long time, whether they immigrated, or moved from another part of the UK, or were

born here - everyone who lives in London at all can feel like a part of that London

identity.

Though Bosetti and Colthorpe had some fallacies to their arguments, such as the

appeal to common belief fallacy in the intro where they claim, “​Everywhere, it seems,

politicians who defend internationalist principles find themselves on the back foot, while

anti-migrant, anti-globalization movements make the waves” (2), their overall argument

is pretty solid. ​The identity of London is just as diverse and varied as it’s people.

Whether someone identifies with the greater city ​of London, or their specific

neighborhood or borough, they’re still a part of the same identity. It crosses the

boundaries of race, social class, gender, sexuality, and nationality. The London identity

is something that anyone, no matter where they come from, can connect with and claim

as their own if they do wish, while their living there. London isn’t just an identity. It’s a

place, a home, and an identity, and its arms are open to everyone.

But what, exactly, helps to make up this Identity? What are the building blocks

that create the Identity we see today? Well, as all Identities are, the Identity of London is

partly built up with subgroups. These subgroups allow people to connect with other

people like them, so they don’t feel lost in the larger scale scope of the Identity of

London as a whole.
In a subsection called “Subgroups,” from a chapter titled, “Defining Culture and

Identities,” by an unknown author in an unknown textbook, said author explains what

Subgroups are, and why they are important for Social Identity. The author first defines

their terms, stating that a subgroup is group that, “provide[s] members with relatively

complete sets of values and patterns of behavior” (Defining Culture and Identities 18). In

other words, it’s a group of people brought together through having the same interests,

beliefs, or characteristics. It is a part of one’s identity that is chosen, instead of one that

is prescribed at birth. The author gives an example of a subgroup category being an

occupation, listing several such as, “nurses and doctors, police officers, and employees

of large organizations such as Microsoft” (Defining Culture and Identities 18). It doesn’t

just have to be an occupation, though. It can be any group of people brought together

for some reason or other.

They continue on to stress that while subgroups have often been linked with the

word decciant, the real definition of that word is just to deviate for the norm of society.

The author then points out that membership can either be a temporary thing, or for life,

and is not exclusive to one thing. A person can belong to as many subgroups as they

chose to identify with in their lifetime. The author makes their last point by talking about

how people who want to be a part of group, but aren’t yet part of one. These people are

called “wannabes,” and they “[imitate] the behavior of a group he or she desires to

belong to” (Defining Culture and Identities 18). They wrap up their argument by claiming

that these subgroups identities are just as important as our cultural identities.
Seeing as this was a chapter in a textbook instead of an article or report, it was

much harder to note the uses of rhetorical devices such as ethos, pathos and logos,

objective and subjectives claims, and fallacies and propaganda. Once you look closer,

however, you begin to notice them. For example, when the author said, “Unfortunately,

in normal discourse, most people associate deviance with undesirable activities”

(Defining Culture and Identities 18). The author’s claim is subjective, because they

cannot claim to know what is “normal,” as normality itself is a subjective idea. Another

example is when the author evokes a sense of ethos to back up their credibility, by

claiming their arguments are backed by psychologists. They also make a subjective

claim when they state that “One important subgroup category is occupation” (Defining

Culture and Identities 18). What might be seen as an important subgroup to one person,

might not be as important to another. So while it would have been objective to call

occupation a subgroup, claiming its level of importance makes it a subjective claim.

One thing that is agreed upon, though, is that subgroups are an important part of

identity, and they’re something that one chooses for themselves. Everyone needs these

subgroups to be a part of, so they can feel as if they are a part of something bigger than

themselves. That’s why when I found out that I was going to be able to study abroad in

London for a semester, I was ecstatic. To me, this meant three months of submerging

myself into one of my two greatest passions and subgroups that make up who I am - the

Theatre world. London is known globally for its amazing theatre, the West End rivaling

even the fame of of Broadway in New York City. And while I have been experiencing the

theatre submersion I was hoping for, I got something else I hadn’t been expecting.
Unbeknownst to me, London is a city that boasts a large community in the literary

world of books, and reading, and writing. There are books stores on every corner, and

book talks with authors, or writing workshops are constantly happening throughout the

city. You go to the event pages of the hundreds of books stores in the city, and each

one has an event list miles long. London is the home of many of the greatest writers in

the world - living and dead - not to mention the setting for some of the greatest plays

and novels ever written.

In an Ipsos MORI poll of public opinion, called “Literature in Britain today,” the

authors of the introduction - Dr. LIsa Appignanesi - and the forward - Tim Robertson -

discuss what role literature plays in Britain in current times. This poll,​ ​commissioned by

the Royal Society of Literature in 2017, goes in-depth into how many people read

literature, and how it affects their lives. It had overwhelmingly positive views on literature

and its impact, finding that out of 2,000, “75% of [those] people (adults in Britain) have

read something in the last 6 months which they consider to be literature” (Literature in

Britain today 3). This shows that there is a large population of people in Britain who read

novels, and have literature as a part in their lives. Appignanesi also claims that, “81% of

our sample [believed] that ‘Literature helps people understand other points of view’” (4).

So not only are people reading, but they view it as something that is important for

society. That reading is something that helps us as human beings to understand other

people, and have empathy for them where we may not have had empathy if we didn’t

understand other people through literature. In this poll they let people decide what they

counted as literature, and asked them to name authors they believed wrote literature,
and came up with 400 different authors, living and dead. Another thing that they asked

the participants of the poll was whether or not literature should be a part of everyone’s

education, and got an overwhelmingly positive consensus with 88% of people saying

yes (Robertson 5).

SInce this was more like an academic paper, instead of a textbook chapter, it

was a lot easier to find the rhetorical devices used by the two authors. One example

was with the propaganda at the end of the forward, where Robertson using pathos to

evoke a sense of pity and asking people to donate money to the Royal Society of

Literature to keep it running, by stating, “we are a small charity looking to play a national

role in championing literature. We can do this only with help from others” (8). In another

part, Roberts makes a subjective claim when he says that, “Literature also genuinely

adds value to people’s lives” (5). While I wholeheartedly agree with his statement, and

this survey is going a long way to try and prove this point, it is not entirely objective.

Another fallacy he commits is a fallacy based on appeal to expertise, by insisting that,

“The overall list of 400 writers named by the public is arguably the most definitive

summary that exists of Britain’s literary canon – certainly one of the most democratic”

(5). He is phrasing it in a way that leaves little room for the reader to disagree, and like it

should already be known as fact.

Appignanesi stakes a claim to credibility, by baking her arguments with quotes

from people held in high esteem for their writing capabilities - such as President Barack

Obama and author JK Rowling. She also evokes a sense of pride and nationality in her

British readers by introducing JK Rowling as, “our very own” (4). Appignanesi also uses
many subjective claims, one of them being when she states that, “[this report] makes

fascinating reading” (4), as there is no way to prove that claim, because it is in fact an

opinion.

Despite all of the biased phrases and uses of rhetorical devices, this survey

proves is that, especially Britain, literature plays a large and positive role in the day to

day lives of its people, and while I have been here, I’ve been able to experience it first

hand. Over my three months here in London I have been able to experience the literary

world like I never have in the San Francisco Bay Area. Not only have I gotten to explore

multiple, giant bookstores that I could spend hours getting lost in, but I’ve also had the

pleasure of going to not one, not two, but three literary events. The first one, though not

something I would normally go to, was a book talk with three feminist authors that I went

to for an assignment. While I consider myself a feminist, it’s not something I talk about a

lot, or get super involved with to that level. It was very interesting, though, and

something that I’m glad I got to experience. The other was a book talk with a writer,

Ransom Riggs, who’s books I absolutely love, and who was just as witty and

personable in person as he is in his books. I also had the pleasure of getting a book

signed by his wife, Tahereh Mafi, who was there with him, and is one of my favorite

authors of all time.

The icing on the cake, though, was a writing workshop with the author E.

Lockhart, on finding your narrative voice while writing novels. This workshop was put on

through the London Literature Festival, which was held over a week long period in

October at the Southbank Centre. Up until this summer, I had been a musical theatre
major. That all changed with Heidi Goen-Salter, the english teacher I had for two

semesters at DVC. She pushed me to be a better writer, and lead me to see the

potential I have as a writer. I had always loved reading and literature, and thought of

writing as something that would be amazing to do, but that I didn’t have the talent for.

She helped convince me that it was something I could achieve, and this summer I

decided to change my major. This subgroup, of the literature world, was something I

had always had one foot in of, and one foot out. It turned out to be perfect timing for me

to jump all in, as London is city where that subgroup is a large part of it’s identity.

The city of London has such a large Identity on its own, and not many cities can

claim the same. It’s a city full of diversity, smaller subgroup identities, and yet they

somehow all come together to create this identity. The way that this is possible is

through those subgroups, like the literature community. These smaller subgroups come

together, and allow people to connect with each other, to build up one large, beautiful,

London Identity. With out these subgroups, where would the Identity of London be?
Works Cited

Appignanesi, Lisa. Robertson, Tim. ​Literature In Britain Today.​ Royal Society of Literature,

2017. https://rsliterature.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/RSL-Literature-in-Britain-

Today_01.03.17.pdf

Bosetti, Nicolas. Colthorpe, Tom. ​Identities.​ London Essays: Reports, ​The Centre for

London​, 18 April 2018. centreforlondon.org/publication/london-identities/

​ agepub.com. “Subgroup.” https://www.sagepub.com/sites/


Defining Culture And Identities. S

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