Cultural identity is the identity or feeling of belonging to a group. It is part of a person's self-conception and self-perception and is related to nationality, ethnicity, religion, social class, generation, locality or any kind of social group that has its own distinct culture. In this way, cultural identity is both characteristic of the individual but also of the culturally identical group of members sharing the same cultural identity or upbringing. Cultural (and Ethnic) Identity is a subset of the communication theory of identity that establishes four "frames of identity" that allow us to view how we build identity. These frames include the personal frame, enactment of communication frame, relationship frame, and communal frame. The communal frame refers to the cultural constraints or the sense of "right" that people live by (which varies by cultural group). Therefore, Cultural (and Ethnic) Identity become central to a persons identity, how they see themselves and how they relate to the world.
Various modern cultural studies and social theories have investigated cultural identity and understanding . In recent decades, a new form of identification has emerged which breaks down the understanding of the individual as a coherent whole subject into a collection of various cultural identifiers. These cultural identifiers may be the result of various conditions including: location, gender, race, history, nationality, language, sexuality, religious beliefs, ethnicity, aesthetics, and even food. As one author writes, recognizing both coherence and fragmentation: “ categorizations about identity, even when codified and hardened into clear typologies by processes of colonization, state formation or general modernizing processes, are always full of tensions and contradictions. Sometimes these contradictions are destructive, but they can also be creative and positive. ” The divisions between cultures can be very fine in some parts of the world, especially in rapidly changing cities where the population is ethnically diverse and social unity is based primarily on locational contiguity. As a "historical reservoir," culture is an important factor in shaping identity. Since one of the main characteristics of a culture is its "historical reservoir," many if not all groups entertain revisions, either consciously or unconsciously, in their historical record in order to either bolster the strength of their cultural identity or to forge one which gives them precedent for actual reform or change. Some critics of cultural identity argue that the preservation of cultural identity, being based upon difference, is a divisive force in society, and that cosmopolitanism gives individuals a greater sense of shared citizenship. When considering practical association in international society, states may share an inherent part of their 'make up' that gives common ground and an alternative means of identifying with each other.
Nations provide the framework for culture identities called external cultural reality, which influences the unique internal cultural realities of the individuals within the nation. Also of interest is the interplay between cultural identity and new media. Rather than necessarily representing an individual's interaction within a certain group, cultural identity may be defined by the social network of people imitating and following the social norms as presented by the media. Accordingly, instead of learning behavior and knowledge from cultural/religious groups, individuals may be learning these social norms from the media to build on their cultural identity. A range of cultural complexities structure the way individuals operate with the cultural realities in their lives. Nation is a large factor of the cultural complexity, as it constructs the foundation for individual's identity but it may contrast with ones cultural reality. Cultural identities are influenced by several different factors such as ones religion, ancestry, skin color, language, class, education, profession, skill, family and political attitudes. These factors contribute to the development of one's identity. Cultural identity is essentially how we as individuals cater to all positions of our lives. We may be teachers, students, friends, bosses, employees, etc. How we act and how our schemas contribute to our positions are the building blocks of your overall cultural identity. Cultural arena It is also noted that an individual's "cultural arena", or place where one lives, impacts the culture that person chooses to abide by. The surroundings, the environment, the people in these places play a factor in how one feels about the culture they wish to adopt. Many immigrants find the need to change their culture in order to fit into the culture of most citizens in the country. This can conflict with an immigrant's current belief in their culture and might pose a problem, as the immigrant feels compelled to choose between the two presenting cultures. Some might be able to adjust to the various cultures in the world by committing to two or more cultures. It is not required to stick to one culture. Many people socialize and interact with people in one culture in addition to another group of people in another culture. Thus cultural identity is able to take many forms and can change depending on the cultural area. The nature of the impact of cultural arena has changed with the advent of the Internet, bringing together groups of people with shared cultural interests who before would have been more likely to integrate into their real world cultural arena. This plasticity is what allows people to feel like part of society wherever they go.
Language develops from the wants of the people who tend to disperse themselves in a common given location over a particular period of time. This tends to allow people to share a way of life that generally links individuals in a certain culture that is identified by the people of that group. The affluence of communication that comes along with sharing a language promotes connections and roots to ancestors and cultural histories. Language can function as a fluid and ever changing identifier, and can be developed in response or rebellion of another cultural code, such as creole languages in the US. Language also includes the way people speak with peers, family members, authority figures, and strangers, including the tone and familiarity that is included in the language. Language learning process can also be affected by cultural identity via the understanding of specific words, and the preference for specific words when learning and using a second language. Since many aspects of a person's cultural identity can be changed, such as citizenship or influence from outside cultures can change cultural traditions, language is a main component of cultural identity.