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The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu put it this way. Each of us has what he called a habitus: a set of dispositions to respond more or less spontaneously to the world in particular ways, without much thought. Your habitus is trained into you starting from childhood. Parents tell you not to speak with your mouth full, to sit up straight, not to touch your food with your left hand, and so on, and thus form table manners that are likely to stick with you all your life.

Once they are inculcated, these habits aren’t consciously associated with an identity: middle-class English people don’t consciously decide to hold their knives in their right hands in order to act English, any more than Ghanaians use only their right hands to eat in order to display that they’re Ghanaian. But these habits were nevertheless shaped by their identity.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity, Liveright.

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