Prop 8 is the proposition to ban gay marriage that passed in California last night. Our building is full of beautiful queer and queer friendly folks, most in happy couples or pairings of some sort. Of course, then I fell head over heels in love with a woman, and my life got better.
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. These social movements are undergirded by and foster a philosophical body of literature that takes up questions about the nature, origin and futures of the identities being defended.
Identity politics as a mode of organizing is intimately connected to the idea that some social groups are oppressed; that is, that one's identity as a woman or as a Native American, for example, makes one peculiarly vulnerable to cultural imperialism including stereotyping, erasure, or appropriation of one's group identityviolence, exploitation, marginalization, or powerlessness Young Identity politics starts from analyses of oppression to recommend, variously, the reclaiming, redescription, or transformation of previously stigmatized accounts of group membership.
Rather than accepting the negative scripts offered by a dominant culture about one's own inferiority, one transforms one's own sense of self and community, often through consciousness-raising. In the process of consciousness-raising, actually life-sharing, we began to recognize the commonality of our experiences and, from the sharing and growing consciousness, to build a politics that will change our lives and inevitably end our oppression.
Combahee River Collective It is beyond the scope of this essay to offer historical or sociological surveys of the many different social movements that might be described as identity politics, although some references to this literature are provided in the bibliography; instead the focus here is to provide an overview of the philosophical issues in the expansive literature in political theory.
From a contemporary perspective, some early identity claims by political activists certainly seem naive, totalizing, or unnuanced. However, the public rhetoric of identity politics served useful and empowering purposes for some, even while it sometimes belied the philosophical complexity of any claim to a shared experience or common group characteristics.
Thus it was barely as intellectuals started to systematically outline and defend the philosophical underpinnings of identity politics that we simultaneously began to challenge them. At this historical juncture, then, asking whether one is for or against identity politics is to ask an impossible question.
Wherever they line up in the debates, thinkers agree that the notion of identity has become indispensable to contemporary political discourse, at the same time as they concur that it has troubling implications for models of the self, political inclusiveness, and our possibilities for solidarity and resistance.
Logical uses aside, it is likely familiar to philosophers from the literature in metaphysics on personal identity—one's sense of self and its persistence. Indeed, underlying many of the more overtly pragmatic debates about the merits of identity politics are philosophical questions about the nature of subjectivity and the self Taylor Charles Taylor argues that the modern identity is characterized by an emphasis on its inner voice and capacity for authenticity—that is, the ability to find a way of being that is somehow true to oneself Taylor While doctrines of equality press the notion that each human being is capable of deploying his or her practical reason or moral sense to live an authentic live qua individual, the politics of difference has appropriated the language of authenticity to describe ways of living that are true to the identities of marginalized social groups.
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: Rather, what is demanded is respect for oneself as different For many proponents of identity politics this demand for authenticity includes appeals to a time before oppression, or a culture or way of life damaged by colonialism, imperialism, or even genocide.
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.
Thus identity politics rests on unifying claims about the meaning of politically laden experiences to diverse individuals. Sometimes the meaning attributed to a particular experience will diverge from that of its subject: Making sense of such disjunctions relies on notions such as false consciousness—the systematic mystification of the experience of the oppressed by the perspective of the dominant.
Thus despite the disagreements of many defenders of identity political claims with Marxism and other radical political models, they share the view that individuals' perceptions of their own interests may be systematically distorted and must be somehow freed of their misperceptions by group-based transformation.
Concern about this aspect of identity politics has crystallized around the transparency of experience to the oppressed, and the univocality of its interpretation.
Experience is never, critics argue, simply epistemically available prior to interpretation Scott ; rather it requires a theoretical framework—implicit or explicit—to give it meaning.
This, critics charge, closes off the possibility of critique of these perspectives by those who don't share the experience, which in turn inhibits political dialogue and coalition-building.
Nonetheless, poststructuralist skepticism about the possibility of experience outside a hermeneutic frame has been countered with phenomenological attempts to articulate a ground for experience in the lived body Alcoff ; see also Oksala and ; Stoller From these understandings of subjectivity, it is easy to see how critics of identity politics, and even some cautious supporters, have feared that it is prone to essentialism.
This expression is another philosophical term of abuse, intended to capture a multitude of sins. In its original contexts in metaphysics, the term implies the belief that an object has a certain quality by virtue of which it is what it is; for Locke, famously, the essence of a triangle is that it is a three-sided shape.
In the contemporary humanities the term is used more loosely to imply, most commonly, an illegitimate generalization about identity Heyes Description: This literary companion carries you into the lives and poetic lines of 41 of America's most admired poets from the last century.
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