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13. Hybrid Dimension of Identity

Change in DirectionCover IMG_7702

The Orinoco expedition (article #12 GKIS) led to the conclusion that we cannot arrive at a true definition of identity if any factor—past or present—that contributes to our makeup, is omitted. This led Raymond Keogh author of Shelter and Shadows to admit: I had been reluctant to acknowledge and examine the full range of cultural forces that emanated from all sides of my family; I had been, for too long, avoiding the influences coming from my hybrid nature and this was an obstacle to defining my true identity.[1] It was time to face the uncomfortable truth.

Uncomfortable Truth

CoronationThe marriage of Raymond’s parents represented the social merger of two urban Catholic cultures—the native Dublin nationalist and the Old English loyalist. With reference to their distinct backgrounds, he states: My mother’s interest in Britain, in contrast to my father’s silence on the subject, was blatantly obvious. He was indifferent or silently antagonistic to her enthusiasm about the accession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth in summer 1953, while she bought every newspaper that covered the event.


My mother and father accommodated [their cultural differences] separately in their unspoken truce; however, the anomalies made me uneasy because, it seemed, a complete commitment to one particular set of inherited values, with the exception of religion, necessitated a rejection of the opposite set. In other words, it appeared that I had to make a stark choice: I was an Irish nationalist or Old English; I could not be both.’[1]

How to Reconcile Incompatible Cultures?

GKIS #3aAs a first step Raymond admitted that: … the best way to deal with divisions, animosities, inconsistencies and cultural contradictions—and to reach beyond them or break through their limitations—is to acknowledge these realities rather than pretend they don’t exist.[1]

Thus, he says [I] began to examine the set of ancestral memes that arose from the British associations of my mother’s people by considering the anecdotes, stories and traditions that had been handed down to me through my mother or, more especially, through her own mother. These memes represented a completely separate cultural pathway out of the past compared to those of my native ancestors. It was obvious how much they conflicted with the idea of Gaelic purity, lauded in Ireland in the 1950s and praised by Irish schoolmasters, politicians and presenters on Radio Éireann ..

New Perspective

Website Compass BratExamining my Old English roots gave me a radically new perspective in terms of defining authentic family identity. This exercise has a particular relevance in Ireland where many of us are, likewise, of mixed cultural backgrounds. The new direction in my journey was not undertaken without pain. But for the first time I faced what I was avoiding: the source of cultural tensions that had weakened my sense of identity.[1]

Unfortunately, even though he faced his dilemma, there seemed to be no way to break the impasse and join his disparate parts in one harmonious whole.

It seemed to be impossible to reconcile the two conflicting traditions, which resided side by side in his household. There was only one way forward: He would have to carefully reexamine the question: What exactly is identity?


[1] Keogh, R. M. Shelter and Shadows. (To be published in September 2016 as part of The Gerald Keogh Identity Series).

GKIS Gerald Keogh Identity Series


Alternative Views about Identity here