Toward a Cultural Phenomenology of Personal Identity
H ow does our inherited world of meaning relate to our fundamental expe-rience of ourselves as persons? Is there a core of self-consciousness that is sequestered from the constitutive reach of culture and language? Can we speak of an unmediated basis for personal identity? These are the questions I will explore in this chapter. My method will be analytic, not comparative or ethnographic. Psychological anthropology and cross-cultural psychology have produced rich literatures showcasing the diversity of conceptions of the person in terms of its physical, mental, and spiritual properties (Csordas, 1994; Fogelson, 1982; Heelas & Lock, 1981; Marsella, DeVos, & Hsu, 1985; Morris, 1994). I will not review these ample literatures here. Rather, my purpose is to provide a warrant and direction for considering self-consciousness as a thoroughly cultured form of experience. My argument will involve reviewing and questioning the commitment to a phenomenological universalism, exemplified by Kant’s transcendental account of the I. From there, I will proceed to a sociocultural discussion of the temporality of subjectivity, as it manifests in both the synchronic and diachronic unity of personal identity. By taking subjective time as my focus, I will demonstrate how cultural forms are implicated in even the most immanent and fundamental aspects of self-consciousness.