There is a need to categorise the world we live in, in order to make sense of it . The way one acts, the way one thinks, the way one internalizes values, norms depend on different agents. Today, I will discuss my own socialisation, how the enviroment I grew up in shaped my sense of identity and my beliefs. In order to do so, I will have to analyze the phenomenon of socialisation, to then discuss one part of my identity – my nationality, according to sociological theories.
What is socialization? Anthony Giddens (1977) defines socialization as a “process whereby the helpless infant gradually becomes self-aware, knowledgeable person, skilled in the ways of the culture into which she or he is born” so in others words once socialized, the individual shares the same values, norms and beliefs as his/her group of belonging. The main agents of socialization are family, friends, school, religion and the media, each of them exercising a different type of power on the individual. Through socialization not only we understand who we are, but we also create link between us and the society – Durkheim (1938) explains that, “Cultural and social phenomena can be understood as social facts; norms, values and cultural beliefs are carried by individuals, but are understood to exist independently of individuals” (Durkheim cited by Frones, 2016 :11). Cultural integration can happen in two different cultures and vice versa, as “Heterogeneity and change make the idea of cultural integration more complex; children can be members of the same “society” or nation but socialized into different values, cultures or sub-groups” (Frones, 2016:2)
In terms of my ethnicity, I believe that the theory of Cooley (1902) “Looking- glass self” is very relevant. Cooley, explains that the way one sees himself/herself is the result of the interactions and the impression one has on how he/she is perceived by others. In order to know who, we are, we think about how other see us and how others react to our created identity. Agents of socialization therefore are mirrors of ourselves. Though I was born in Georgia, I grew up in France. The problem with a mixed background, is that when I went to Georgia, I always identified as French, because other people believed I was more French than Georgian, even though my family always socialized my as a Georgian – I spoke Georgian, I was familiar with Georgian culture and learned how to write. When I went to France, I would identify as Georgian, even though I was very much sharing the same values, cultural manners and respected the norms as every other French citizen.
How did I try to integrate in as a child? As Meade (1934) explains, there a three stages of socialization imitation stage, play stage and games stage, he underlines that the process of socialization is more interactive. The imitation stage happens unconsciously or in other words, as an infant, who does not understand the actual process, while the play stage is I believe, more relevant in my case – while playing with children with different countries – either in Georgia or France, I always tried to use the same manners, the same way of using language some type of key words, but also act the way they did – playing the role of the other. I believed that by not being different, the process of integration would be easier. As I grew up, I began to understand what my role was, making it easier to understand what to expect from others– Meade calls this the games stage. Slowly, by interaction, one realizes the role he/she plays and the rules of the game and manages to coexist with other players, developing a sense of belonging.
As said previously, different agents participate in socialization – family, friends, school and media. Durkheim (1922) underlines that education is imposed – it’s a social fact. No matter how much parents influence their children, education will always play an important role in one’s socialization in order to create a common sense of belonging, by teaching values, norms and beliefs accepted in a specific society. School, especially the French school always emphasized on the civil obligations we, as French citizens had, it taught us the values of the Republic, the French language but most importantly history, which resulted in my strong commitment to France and my “French” identity. Yet my family, always tried to socialize me as a European citizen, in other words, they taught me universal values such as tolerance, respect, liberty along with Georgian ones. As Frones (2016) underlines, the primary socialization happens during childhood, where the dominant agent is the family – sometimes the values the family shares are in accordance to dominant cultural values, sometimes not (Frones, 2016:14) In my case, I would have to say that it was both; as I discovered my Georgian identity, by learning how to read and write, by reading Georgian books and watching Georgian movies, I developed an attachment to Georgian culture yet I never internalized Georgian traditions or religiousness probably because I grew up in a secular country.
Religion is often said to be a personal choice, yet as Frones explains, “it is something we are socialized into” (Frones, 2016: 6). France is one of the most secular countries, where schools are considered as public space and religiousness can not be displayed, while in Georgia religion plays an important role. I would have to say that my religious views are the result of French education.
All in all, being socialized helps one understand his/her role in the society, but knowing the mechanisms through which one integrates in the society is even more interesting. Socialization in terms of nationality, especially when one has two identities sometimes seems challenging yet it is also a very enriching experience – where one can fully integrate in a multicultural society. My socialization still continues today as an adult – although now, it is in the UK.