Indrani Ashe

Identity Formation, Religious “Choice,” and (Re)acting Violence

In The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism (1997), Regina M. Schwartz draws a deciphering line that connects the violence of cultural and systemic identity formation and what are secondary acts of religious violence. It is distinctive to think of identity formation as an act of violence. When ideology, disinterested love, and the forceful integration of instilling separateness into youth as they navigate self-discovery and ontological stamina all play into identity, certainly it is a form of violence. That this sows the seeds of future enacted violence against the very others they were taught to be apart from, separate from, othered in all respects, this manifestation of violence can be seen to be easy to reproduce, simple to manufacture at either a level of an individual child or as a collective group. Violence enacted as identity formation is a form of biolence.  

Collectively this identity formation is tied together by the very insignias of authority that donate collective memory to the self. With this ease of disparity, it becomes clearer that religious freedom is a misnomer as that freedom of religion is not from religion in the auspices of cultural identity formation. Though not absolute, the derivative of limitations of freedoms does equate to a monopolized stance on differentials of choice, experience, expression, and fortitude – economic or otherwise. Those in less economically spurious regions will be less likely to obtain the fortitude of freedom within the navigations of choice of religion – perhaps, signifying the limitations of freedoms to counter violence being subject to the violence of identity distribution and disposition. Identity is limited by the same weight as religion itself. What is internal is shared as a community. What is communal is holistically grand in its interaction with a larger impaled economic entity of the state or denomination to sternly integrate the castration of change to prevent any counterinsurgency that might dissemble the progression of those in power becoming power. Power is law and law is violence. The interested parties condemn the individual to the illusion of disinterestedness. 

Socio-ontological denominationalism, which are groups within groups, functionary projections of the mind’s executive functioning bringing order to the external world are soliloquies of fostered detention of identity. Between the state, the external public sphere of coercion, this lament carries into the private sphere latent threat centers. For example, my identity as disabled person counters and elicits violence from those with the imprint of violent identity formation. This threat of my neurodivergent identity is immediate and certain. This can be manifest in structural constructs of stigma and discrimination or with even more immediate and dire consequences such as in interactions with the police. The mentally ill are 16 times more likely to be killed by the police and by some numbers account for up to half of all fatal police encounters. (Treatment Advocacy Center)

The threat of an abstained identity has ramification all throughout society. However, with the insights of experience and age, it will largely be agreed that it can be a good thing and have positive effects on individuals and the community at large. Traditional feminist tokens of the  reality of public and private sphere denote the public as male centered and aggressive and the private as female centered and nurturing. This is traditional, though that should be taken loosely, as even within the these staples there is a long – and current – tradition of imprinting the private sphere into the public to make an influence on nuclear religiosity and help attain structural change, laying the foundations for the centered credence of private feminist idenity formation which, as has been demonstrated, enforces relief from violence in the public sphere. Women in leadership positions throughout all denominations of the tokens of society leads to peace, restoration, and a healing resolution for those who have been subject to violent identity formation.  

For a thorough background and fundamental explanation of “nuclear religiosity” see my book Provoking God: Sacred Hope, Social Justice, and the Hebrew Bible.

Painting by Indrani Ashe

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