Nov 2, 2017 in Review

Article of David Oh

The study presented in the article of David Oh, Viewing Identity: Second-Generation Korean American Ethnic Identification and the Reception of Korean Transnational Films, provides the reader with the opportunity to consider the issues related to the identity of second-generation Asian Americans (Oh, 2011). The essence of human being can be found in its perception of itself and the environment that surrounds people. Only the combination of these two processes creates personality, influence behavior, and dictates particular actions. This article is partially aimed to discover the concepts that give the understanding regarding the most important part of self-perception – true self. In order to explore the topic and answer the question whether the human beings have a true self or not, the Erikson’s theory of ego development and positioning theory are presented.

The author explored the connection between the desire to identify oneself considering the ethnic roots and the perception of Korean transnational films. In addition, Oh evaluated the role of ethnic identity formation in shaping the interest and reception of such films. He used the theories of self-identification. Erikson’s theory was one of them. The theory created by Erik Erikson is based on the five stages of ego development, distinguished by Freud. Erikson added Freudian theory with new stages that included adulthood since the original theory did not include adulthood. The theory of ego development, created by Erikson, includes eight stages from infancy to late adulthood (League, 2010).

Called Initiative vs. Guilt

  • According to the theory, the first stage is Trust vs. Mistrust and it starts in the very young age of an individual, in infancy. Erikson believes that if all needs of an infant are met appropriately, the child should begin to trust the parents and it develops the basic sense of trust. Otherwise, the infant could lose the feeling of security and begin not to trust the parents (League, 2010). Consequently, it could make the child unsociable in the future. True self, in such case, will be hidden in the deep layers of a child’s mind, false self could develop into its pathological state. The second stage is called Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. At this stage, toddlers learn to be independent and show their free will. This is the time when it is necessary to encourage the autonomous attitude and wish to be independent, shown by the toddlers instead of shaming them or yelling at them (League, 2010; Sherer, 2005).
  • During this period of development, young people learn to perceive the world and deal with it, basing on their own mistakes and accomplishments. Parents must be very careful, encourage, and correct them, if necessary, but not more. Lowered self-esteem could be the results of inappropriate attitude of parent to their child at this stage.
  • During the third stage, called Initiative vs. Guilt, children learn how to initiate tasks and plan their actions in order to complete them. This is the stage of questions, so it is utterly important to let children talk and not to interrupt them without substantial reasons. Otherwise, they could feel guilt for constant asking and numerous tries of getting to know the outside world better and stop doing that. Balance is as important at this stage as never before (League, 2010).
  • The fourth stage is called Industry and Competence vs. Inferiority. The children go to school and learn to perceive knowledge, socialize, as well as perform different tasks, etc. At this stage, it is important to support this small individual so that the child could avoid the developing feeling of interiority if something goes wrong.
  • The fifth stage, according to Erikson, is the most important one in the life of a child. It is called Identity vs. Role Confusion and presupposes the most difficult part of childhood for both children and parents (League, 2010). At this stage, young people begin to identify themselves in this world. They begin to test different roles that could be suitable for them. It is the period of time, when teenagers make many mistakes and maximize everything around (Sherer, 2005).

The role of parents at this stage is crucial. It is possible to regain the trust and respect that were lost during the previous stages. During this period, parents should act very carefully and wisely. Those children that have certain freedom of choice, ability to make mistakes, and make appropriate conclusions from them, find their place in this world faster than their peers that do not have such freedom. It is also the time of finding one’s true self and conforming it to false self (League, 2010).

  • The sixth stage takes the substantial part of life, from 20’s to 40’s and is called Intimacy vs. Isolation. It is the stage, when ego continues to develop and form in the rapid pace. It is the time when individuals find or do not find their soul mate. If the process of finding the right person procrastinates in time, the individual could start feeling isolated (League, 2010; Sherer, 2005).
  • The Identity vs. Role stage influences this stage directly, so if an individual did not find the right place in this world, it is very difficult to create a strong, healthy relationship with another individual. The next seventh stage is called Generativity vs. Stagnation. It is the time to look back at the results of our work, general contribution to the world (League, 2010). Finally, the last, eighth stage is called Integrity vs. Despair. This stage comes at the dawn of our physical existence and rather simple in its reflections (League, 2010). It is the case when we ask ourselves if we are happy with our life or not. These questions are based on the results of our life in personal, social, professional, etc. spheres.

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The Concepts of Self-Identification

Using the concepts of self-identification, Oh decided to conduct the research using multiply-method design. The author used “media diaries”, in-depth interviews, and ethnographic observation in order to uncover a more complete understanding of the reception of Korean films through the “triangulation” of patterns in the data” (Oh, 2012). The respondents watched DVDs in the ways most comfortable to them and then gave the reviews and feedbacks. The films were chosen by the researcher and they should have matched such criteria as an ethical consideration and popularity (excluding films with rating “18 and over” (Oh, 2012)). The author used the following criteria for ethnic identity stage categorization: ambivalence, exploration, immersion, and integration. After the series of interviews and considering the reaction of the respondent, Oh concluded that second-generation Asian Americans are interested in their ethnic culture and realize that their identities are formed by inside (community) and outside (the U.S. culture) forces.

The idea of the research is rather important and needs to be further explored. The arguments provided by the author support the main points of the research. However, it cannot be called unbiased or objective due to the relatively small size of the respondents’ group. In addition, film perception is always very subjective so it might not be the best choice of research tool. Oh, however, uses theoretical background (Erikson’s theory, for example) in order to strengthen the conclusions based on the research. Despite the subjective nature of the provided responses and controversial choice of the research target, the idea of the research is clear and interesting. Mix of the cultures and assimilation of local ethnic groups is one of the trends of the century so it needs to be researched in greater extent.  

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