Dispersion (2002), is the name of a painting by Julie Mehretu. It is an amalgam of calligraphic swooshes and monochromatic geometric forms – that appear to swirl around as if caught in some mysterious vortex – but behind it lays an elaborate linear structure. It is as if a painting by Kandinsky has collided head-on with an abstract design by Moholy-Nagy or Malevich. Incorporating and combining pre-existing architectural plans and designs, Julie Mehretu’s paintings suggest fantastical new maps that appear to represent both space and time. For the artist, the colorful abstract marks and shapes exist as a type of personal significance, or language, belonging to the characters that occupy these complex Post-Modern landscapes.

Her paintings bring together formal investigations into color and line, with social issues pertaining to power, history and the formation of personal and cultural identity in the globalized world.[1]  She describes her work as follows;

I think of my abstract mark-making as a type of sign lexicon, signifier, or language for characters that hold identity and have social agency. The characters in my maps plotted, journeyed, evolved, and built civilizations. I charted, analyzed, and mapped their experience and development: their cities, their suburbs, their conflicts, and their wars. The paintings occurred in an intangible no-place: a blank terrain, an abstracted map space. As I continued to work I needed a context for the marks, the characters. By combining many types of architectural plans and drawings I tried to create a metaphoric, tectonic view of structural history. I wanted to bring my drawing into time and place.[2]

In the globalized world most people focus on the global. And too few focus on the inside. This post wants to invite its readers to internalize their experiences and mapping them by reflecting about following issues;


In the context of a global world the meaning of the national identity is definitely losing its significance. Identifying or not with belonging to a particular country is a personal choice. A strong sense of belonging could be positive. It will lead to diversity and preserving heritage. Or it could lead to conflicts, based on historic unfairness.


‘Our ethnic heritages shape us in many ways and fill many of us with pride, but they also are the source of much conflict, prejudice, and even hatred…’.


Embrace other religions. Because of migration and free travel you will meet people of different convictions. Religion has been the main source of moral and ethics teachings through centuries and each scripture has something to teach us.


Older generations are assumed to have been affected less by technology and globalization, but feel free to break the stereotypes. You, too, can use technology, travel the world and want the best.


In a global world you are surrounded with different cultures. It may be easier for you to understand behaviors and relationships of people around if you know where they are coming from.


Sexual identity is an intimate and personal question. It is confusing enough to navigate your feelings. You do not owe society acting masculine or feminine, or conforming to whatever stereotypes people have of you, OR defying them.


Enjoy your life in a diverse world, abundant of cultures, believes and traditions. The process of internalizing those experiences will turn you into a more colorful and multifaceted person.

[1] more works by this artist can be found at;   https://www.google.com/search?q=JULIE+MEHRETU&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj5ppOgueTgAhXE2OAKHdQwCTIQiR56BAgGEBM&biw=1303&bih=648

[2] Laurie Firstenberg, “Painting Platform in NY”, Flash Art Vol. XXXV No. 227, November | December 2002, p. 70

6 thoughts on “Dispersion; Personal and Cultural Identity in the Globalized World.

  1. Am I…? Yes, but most of us would like to think we’re so much more than each of these in our identity. The trouble is we don’t expect that same complexity out of others. Thank you for introducing me to Mehretu’s work.


    1. When you, out of a literary point of view, describe someone as “typical American”, that makes for a very flat protagonist, because it implies to associate this personage with all the stereotypes that are circulating in popular culture. The more character building reflects also details of the other aspects that are here mentioned, the “rounder”a protagonist becomes. Mehretu’s work makes me think about the floor plan of my own “mind palace” and inspires me to put more dept into my novels and personal live, centered around those six pillars that compose a round cultural identity.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I wrongfully replied to your reaction with a comment under yours. This is a correction of this mistake.
      A while ago, I was reading once a quote (forgot by whom) stating that people have three identities; one the other people think you are, one you think by yourself you are and the one you really are. And indeed, we’re more than our identities. I tend to agree with Levinas who posits responsibility for the other as the essential structure of subjectivity. I’m glad you liked the painting that inspired me for writing this post.


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