People’s identity and a sense of belonging are closely connected to the society they have grown up in and the race that defines their beliefs and values. Often, people will move from one location to the other, thus assimilating and adapting to the new environment. With this change in life, their identity shifts and they naturally or subconsciously mold and frame their attitude and behaviors to the new place of habitation. As a result, some might say that there is a form of betrayal when a person forgets about their heritage or even purposefully does something to forget it. This is the case with grafting, which concerns changing one’s look to fit in with the majority of people in a specific nation. From one perspective, it might seem as a desire to fit in and be a part of the culture. However, from the other perspective, people should not forget about and be ashamed of their native culture. Those who take shame in their culture lose a valuable part of themselves and betray their roots, which will lead to a change in their individuality and tense relations with every person from the native culture.
Daphnee Lee, an assistant professor at the Department of Education Policy and Leadership at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, studies the issue of identity and assimilation into the new culture. In her book, “Managing Chineseness: Identity and Ethnic Management in Singapore”, the writer talks about belonging to a certain group and the meaning of social constructions created by the majority. Firstly, to understand the concept of grafting and the desire to change, it is necessary to acknowledge that a group should include people sharing a common, unchanging characteristic, such as gender, color, relationship, or past experience, and that group members cannot change this characteristic, which is extremely important for the person or the conscience of a group member so that they cannot be required to change it (Lee 13). Secondly, the group must be recognizable and different from others in the society. To determine if a group is recognizable and distinguishable, the individual must learn a common feature that affirms the definition of the group. If the society considers persons who share this common feature to be different from persons who do not possess this feature, it is possible to establish that the group is recognizable and distinct in the society.
Grafting destroys one’s identity and leads to the person becoming someone they are not in the reality. As such, the group a person belongs to cannot be considered as a specific social group under the above definition because it does not correspond to requirements set out for assessing whether a particular social group exists. Groups of people who share characteristics that correspond to the majority are not defined as a social group under the definition if the group does not meet the requirement of social recognition or uniqueness (Mulcahy 95). Similarly, even when a group of persons is socially recognizable and distinctive, it must be established that members of the group share the line that meets the first requirement in order to qualify as a particular social group. If the person changes their identity, visually, they are refusing to admit the shared characteristics that should not be changed and include common past experiences, gender, color, and some family relationships. When membership in a particular social group is only attributed to visual characteristics and the person does not have a certain feature, the subjective component of this analysis is not applied. Since in this case it has nothing to do with clarifying whether it is fundamental by nature, it becomes relevant to the individual’s personality.
When a person changes the look to fit in with the local society, not only it is dangerous to their heritage and personal sense of belonging, but accepting the characteristics defining the group may in some cases be a testament to the identity loss. The decision to maintain membership in the group, despite the considerable risk, may sometimes be the evidence that it is so fundamental to their personality that one cannot be required to change it. Not all people take the risk of performing certain activities to change their visual representation because it is fundamental to their personality. For example, risks taken solely for the material gain will not support the requirement of fundamentalism and, as such, a person must have absolute conviction and confidence that it is necessary (Mulcahy 34). A distinctive feature shared between members of a group may be a sign that the group is perceived as distinguishable or noticeable. One way to assess this requirement is to study the shared trait, which is said to determine a social group. The proof that a given society distinguishes people who share this trait from people who do not have this feature can prove necessary social uniqueness of the group. As a consequence, a group does not have to identify itself as a group to be socially distinguishable.
One of the primary reasons for a person to want to fit in is that for a group it is not necessary to identify itself explicitly as a group so that the requirement of social distinctiveness or visibility is met. Members of the group can hide their identity or not communicate with each other, seeking to avoid identification and, thus, there may not be obvious or traditional signs of the group that are immediately visible. If the given society distinguishes members of the group from others because of their shared trait, then the group is socially distinguishable and noticeable. A separate social group should be defined as possessing such a feature that the proposed group can be accurately described, clearly enough that the group is recognized in this society as a separate class of people. The definition of the group should be a reference point for determining who members of the group are so that membership can be allocated or established. A certain social group described by terms as indeterminate, subjective, undeveloped, or variable will not satisfy the requirement of certainty since membership in groups described this way is difficult to distinguish.
Cultural consequences of expanding contacts between representatives of different countries and cultures are expressed, among other things, in a gradual decline of cultural identity. This is especially evident in the youth culture when young people wear the same clothes, listen to the same music, and worship the same “stars” of sports, cinema, etc. However, with respect to older generations, a natural reaction to this process is a desire to preserve existing features and differences of their culture. Therefore, today in the process of intercultural communication the problem of cultural identity, i.e. the person’s belonging to a particular culture, is of particular relevance. Intensive development of intercultural contacts makes the problem of not only cultural, but also ethnic identity urgent. This is due to a number of reasons. Among many sociocultural groups, the most stable ones are ethnic groups that are stable. Thanks to this, the ethnos of a person becomes the most reliable in the group that can provide them with necessary security and support in life.
Overall, the change of one’s identity is caused by interior and exterior motives. Belonging to a certain group is a desire and, in some cases, a need. People who choose to change their identity for the group, do so voluntarily. In the end, it is a form of a loss of identity and assimilation as it blurs distinctive features of a cultural group, further contributing to the cultural decline, which may undermine self-perception and self-identification. The implications of the process of grafting are complex and, therefore, this issue requires close attention and further research.