The word free is defined as the ability to act as one wishes not under the control of the other. To be free can be directly ties to the term agency. There is not a set way to define agency as with most anthropological concepts it is relative. However, in a broad sense it is the ability to act as an individual. In this sense agency is freedom. The Latin maxim libertas non duras sine veritate, translates to there can be no freedom without truth. Therefore if an individual cannot fully express their true selves and show their whole identity, they are essentially not free.

In the text by Hannah Arendt, she stated “the less we were free to decide who we were or to live as we like, the more we try to put up a front to hide facts and to play roles” (Arendt). She explains of their time in Germany and France and how their identities were limited in each situation. In Germany, they were looked down upon as Jews however when they crossed over to France they were scorned for coming from Germany being referred to as Boche. This allowed them to fit in as Frenchmen. However, once the Germans invaded, they were no longer seen as Boche but once again as Jews. As such they remained incarcerated. They were not free to express their true identities to fit in and avoid suppression yet suppression came anyway even when they suppressed their identity as either way the whole truth was never revealed depending on where they were.

This part of the reading, particularly the theme of freedom interested me firstly because of the aforementioned quote. It startled me how much identity and agency were intertwined. The fact that the suppression of identity could create a social continuum struck me as in a sense we all do not have full agency to be our whole true selves and all put up a front or rather ‘integrate into the societies and communities in which we may newly join’ Even here in NYUAD, each of us plays specific roles which may be different to that of our home countries. This made me question if we are ever truly free or simply suppressed by community and societal expectations.



Works Cited

Hays, Sharon. 1994. "Structure and Agency and the Sticky Problem of Culture.." "Structure and Agency and the Sticky Problem of Culture.." Sociological Theory 12. no. 1: 57. Moore, Michael S. 2005. "Freedom." "Freedom." Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 21. no. 9: 9-26. Oxford Dictionaries Accessed 4 Jan 2018.