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Personal Narrative: Aunt Sandy

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To the extent that group interests are represented in liberal polities, they tend to be understood as associational, forms of interest group pluralism whereby those sharing particular interests voluntarily join together to create a political lobby. Citizens are free to register their individual preferences through voting, for example , or to aggregate themselves for the opportunity to lobby more systematically e. These lobbies, however, are not defined by the identity of their members so much as by specific shared interests and goals, and when pressing their case the marginalized subjectivity of the group members is not itself called into question. Finally, political parties, the other primary organs of liberal democratic government, critics suggest, have few moments of inclusivity, being organized around party discipline, responsiveness to lobby groups, and broad-based electoral popularity.

Ultimately conventional liberal democracy, diverse radical critics claim, cannot effectively address the ongoing structural marginalization that persists in late capitalist liberal states, and may even be complicit with it Young ; P. Williams ; Brown ; M. Williams ; Mills On a philosophical level, liberal understandings of the political subject and its relationship to collectivity came to seem inadequate to ensuring representation for women, gay men and lesbians, or racial-ethnic groups M. Williams Critics charged that the neutral citizen of liberal theory was in fact the bearer of an identity coded white, male, bourgeois, able, and heterosexual Pateman ; Young ; Di Stefano ; Mills ; Pateman and Mills This implicit ontology in part explained the persistent historical failure of liberal democracies to achieve full inclusion in power structures for members of marginalized groups.

A richer understanding of political subjects as constituted through and by their social location was required. In particular, the history and experience of injustice brought with it certain perspectives and needs that could not be assimilated through existing institutions. Individuals are oppressed by virtue of their membership in a particular social group —that is, a collective whose members have relatively little mobility into or out of the collective, who usually experience their membership as involuntary, who are generally identified as members by others, and whose opportunities are deeply shaped by the relation of their group to corollary groups through privilege and oppression Cudd Liberal democratic institutions have persistently grappled with the challenge of recognizing such asymmetries of identity while stressing procedural consistency and literal equality in institutions.

Thus for example the twentieth-century U. Color-blindness—that is, the view that race should be ignored in public policy and everyday exchange—had hegemony in popular discourse. Drawing attention to race—whether in a personal description or in university admissions procedures—was characterized as unfair and racist. Advocates of color-consciousness, on the other hand, argued that racism would not disappear without proactive efforts, which required the invocation of race. Affirmative action requires statistics about the numbers of members of oppressed racial groups employed in certain contexts, which in turn requires racial identification and categorization.

Thus those working against racism face a paradox familiar in identity politics: the very identity they aim to transform must be invoked to make their case. Critics have also charged that integration or, more provocatively, assimilation is a guiding principle of liberalism see Callan If the liberal subject is coded in the way Young suggests, then attempts to apply liberal norms of equality will risk demanding that the marginalized conform to the identities of their oppressors. If this is equality , they claim, then it looks suspiciously like the erasure of socially subordinate identities rather than their genuine incorporation into the polity. One of the central charges against identity politics by liberals, among others, has been its alleged reliance on notions of sameness to justify political mobilization.

Looking for people who are like you rather than who share your political values as allies runs the risk of sidelining critical political analysis of complex social locations and ghettoizing members of social groups as the only persons capable of making or understanding claims to justice. After an initial wave of relatively uncompromising identity politics, proponents have taken these criticisms to heart and moved to more philosophically nuanced accounts that appeal to coalitions as better organizing structures. On this view, separatism around a single identity formation must be muted by recognition of the intersectional nature of social group memberships.

The idea of a dominant identity from which the oppressed may need to dissociate themselves remains, but the alternative becomes a more fluid and diverse grouping, less intent on guarantees of internal homogeneity. Finally, the literature on multiculturalism takes up questions of race, ethnicity, and cultural diversity in relation to the liberal state Levy ; Kymlicka Some multicultural states—notably Canada—allegedly aim to permit the various cultural identities of their residents to be preserved rather than assimilated, despite the concern that the over-arching liberal aims of such states may be at odds with the values of those they claim to protect.

For many commentators on multiculturalism this is the nub of the issue: is there an inconsistency between defending the rights of minority cultures, while prohibiting those allegedly cultural practices that the state judges illiberal Eisenberg and Spinner-Halev ; Phillips ? Can liberalism sustain the cultural and value-neutrality that some commentators still ascribe to it, or to what extent should it embrace its own cultural specificity Taylor ; Foster and Herzog ; Kymlicka ?

Defenders of the right to cultural expression of minorities in multicultural states thus practice forms of identity politics that are both made possible by liberalism and sometimes in tension with it see Laden and Owen Since its s origins, identity politics as a mode of organizing and set of political philosophical positions has undergone numerous attacks by those motivated to point to its flaws, whether by its pragmatic exclusions or more programmatically. Marxists, both orthodox and revisionist, and socialists—especially those who came of age during the rise of the New Left in western countries—have often interpreted the perceived ascendancy of identity politics as representing the end of radical materialist critique see discussions in McNay —, and Kumar et al.

Identity politics, for these critics, is both factionalizing and depoliticizing, drawing attention away from the ravages of late capitalism toward superstructural cultural accommodations that leave economic structures unchanged. In her book Against Recognition , for example, Lois McNay argues that identity claims that are at the heart of many contemporary social movements are represented as demands for recognition in the context of an over-simplified account of power.

Although theorists of recognition typically start from a Hegelian model of the subject as dialogically formed and necessarily situated, they too quickly abandon the radical consequences of such a view for subject formation, McNay argues. In this way, the debates around subject-formation that are at the heart of philosophical discussions of identity politics parallel conversations between Habermasians and Foucauldians about the possibility of a transcendental subject that can ground practices of critique see Allen This varied debate has a long half-life see Fraser ; and contemporary manifestations.

For example, Glen Coulthard argues that the shift in colonial state-Indigenous relations in present-day Canada from unabashed assimilationism to demands for mutual recognition especially of cultural distinctiveness cannot be an adequate decolonization strategy. Reading the intellectual history of the politics of recognition through Hegel to Sartre to Fanon to Benhabib, Coulthard argues that this discourse is a reiteration and sometimes a cover-up of the patriarchal, racist, and colonial relations between Indigenous people and the Canadian state that it purports to ameliorate.

Instead, he defends a paradigm of critical Indigenous resurgence that draws on cultural history and economic practices that are neither essentialized nor romanticized, but that also do not rest on concession-oriented relation-building with the existing Canadian state. From the early days, the presentation of a dichotomy or a choice between recognition and redistribution, or the cultural and the economic, was challenged by those who pointed out that the intersectional politics of gender, sexuality, and race had always been engaged and understood through the structures of capitalism Butler ; Upping the Anti ; Walters Identity politics, Fukuyama concludes, is the lens through which politics in the US is refracted, with a turning-away from economic inequality on the left providing a convenient evasion for the right.

In response to this challenge, defenders point out again how political organizing through contemporary feminism and anti-racism—by way of movements like MeToo or Black Lives Matter, for example—has not shied away from the economic components to their analyses. The idea, however, that proponents of treating gender, sexuality, or race as intersecting axes of individual meaning and social stratification have consistently neglected the economic aspects of their analyses is hard to sustain. Perhaps most important for philosophers, any idea of identity itself appears to be in a period of rapid evolution. Attempts to decode human genetics and shape the genetic make-up of future persons Richardson and Stevens , to clone human beings, or to xeno-transplant animal organs, and so on, all raise deep philosophical questions about the kind of thing a person is.

As more and more people form political alliances using disembodied communications technologies, the kinds of identities that matter seem also to shift. Increasingly, this long list of confounding variables for identity political thought is finding philosophical cohesion in anti-identarian models that take somatic life, affect, time, or space as organizing concepts.

The lines between humans and other animals Haraway ; Donaldson and Kymlicka , , between the living and the non-living Sharp , and between objects and subjects Bennett are radically challenged. The COVID pandemic shows more clearly than ever how the edges of human bodies are porous with our environments. This mass of shifts and contradictions might be thought to mark the end of the era of identity politics. Whatever limits are inherent to identity political formations, however, the enduring rhetorical power of the phrase itself indicates the deep implication of questions of power and legitimate government with demands for self-determination that are unlikely to fade away.

The author would like to thank Jeanique Tucker, who provided research assistance for the revision. History and Scope 2. Philosophy and Identity 3. Liberalism and Identity Politics 4. History and Scope The second half of the twentieth century saw the emergence of large-scale political movements—second wave feminism, Black Civil Rights in the U. As Sonia Kruks puts it: What makes identity politics a significant departure from earlier, pre-identarian forms of the politics of recognition is its demand for recognition on the basis of the very grounds on which recognition has previously been denied: it is qua women, qua blacks, qua lesbians that groups demand recognition. Rather, what is demanded is respect for oneself as different Thus for example Taiaiake Alfred, in his defense of a return to traditional Indigenous values, argues that: Indigenous governance systems embody distinctive political values, radically different from those of the mainstream.

Western notions of domination human and natural are noticeably absent; in their place we find harmony, autonomy, and respect. We have a responsibility to recover, understand, and preserve these values, not only because they represent a unique contribution to the history of ideas, but because renewal of respect for traditional values is the only lasting solution to the political, economic, and social problems that beset our people.

Central to this position is the observation that any claim to identity must organize itself around a constitutive exclusion: An identity is established in relation to a series of differences that have become socially recognized. These differences are essential to its being. If they did not coexist as differences, it would not exist in its distinctness and solidity. Entrenched in this indispensable relation is a second set of tendencies, themselves in need of exploration, to conceal established identities into fixed forms, thought and lived as if their structure expressed the true order of things.

When these pressures prevail, the maintenance of one identity or field of identities involves the conversion of some differences into otherness, into evil, or one of its numerous surrogates. Identity requires differences in order to be, and it converts difference into otherness in order to secure its own self-certainty. Connolly 64 The danger of identity politics, then, is that it casts as authentic to the self or group a self-understanding that in fact is defined by its opposition to a dominant identity, which typically represents itself as neutral.

Liberalism and Identity Politics Institutionalized liberal democracy is a key condition of possibility for contemporary identity politics. Contemporary Philosophical Engagement with Identity Politics Since its s origins, identity politics as a mode of organizing and set of political philosophical positions has undergone numerous attacks by those motivated to point to its flaws, whether by its pragmatic exclusions or more programmatically.

On the right, white nationalists would like to replace the creedal national identity with one based on race, ethnicity, and religion. In its place, we see the hegemonic acceptance of an inherently reactionary alternative: one which perceives race, gender and sexuality as dearly-held, self-fashioning, and self-justifying essences. Kumar et al. Anderson, Bridget, , Doing the Dirty Work? Asante, Molefi K. Zalta ed.

Bhambra, Gurminder K. Blasius, Mark ed. Coole, Diana and Samantha Frost ed. Cudd, Ann E. Davis, Lennard J. Eisenberg, Avigail and Jeff Spinner-Halev ed. Gutmann, Amy ed. Nicholsen trans. Haraway, Donna, Hartsock, Nancy C. Heyes, Cressida J. Laden, Anthony and David Owen ed. Levy, Jacob T. Okin, Susan Moller, et al. Nussbaum eds. Ginsberg ed. The similarities ended with hairstyles and grief-stricken expressions and in the latter case, the depicted woman was not a brunette. Four of the six women depicted were identified by name at the time they were photographed the fifth appeared to be a bystander, and the sixth unidentified and none was transient to the tragedies with which they were associated or disappeared afterwards: Medek and Soto relatives of victims in tragedies that were not exceptionally recent went on to appear in multiple photographs and interviews about the respective incidents.

Shortly after the Umpqua tragedy, Soto remarked that the continued use of the photograph seen above in the media exacerbated her pain tremendously, and all four of the women initially depicted were likely deeply distressed by the appropriation of their personal mourning for the purposes of advancing a conspiracy narrative. Fact Checks. Crisis Actors Uncovered? False About this rating. Top Fact Checks. Edward Mordrake, the Man with Two Faces.

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