Home > identiteet, poliitika, sotsiaal, subjekt > Ananta Kumar Giri “Civil Society and the Limits of Identity Politics”

Ananta Kumar Giri “Civil Society and the Limits of Identity Politics”

Giri, Ananta Kumar 2002. Civil Society and the Limits of Identity Politics. Identity, Culture and Politics 3(1): 57-79

But now there is a need to rethink identity, identity politics as part of a struggle to reconstruct civil society as a space of non-identitarian politics and ethics. The need for such a rethinking has been occasioned by a displacement in the emancipatory promise of identity politics. Earlier identitarian movements were fighting for the emancipation of groups concerned but now they are more preoccupied with the annihilation of the other than with self-emancipation. (58)

The first limit of identity politics is that it reifies identities and this reification  and  substantialization  is  not  only  dangerous  for  the  other,  it  is dangerous for the self as well. Identity politics many a time leads to denial of choice on the part of the individuals whose identities are valorized and fought for. (64)

Limits  of  identity politics urges us to realize not only the limits of assertive identitarian groups within the nation-state but also understand the limits of nation-state as a taken-for-granted ultimate frame of our identity. (65)

[…] identity  needs  cannot  be  easily  satisfied  by  appeals  to communitarian frameworks; rather it requires a morally just identity formation on the part of the actors and proceeds with a frame of “qualitative distinctions” (Joas, 2000; also Matustik, 1997).  Such a process of identity formation calls for rethinking community as not merely a space of conformity but as a space of responsibility. In fact, in thinking about community there is a need now to make a move from community as a space of “descriptive responsivity” to it as a space of “normative responsibility” where as Calvin O. Schrag passionately tells us:  “Responsibility,  nurtured  by  the  call  of  conscience,  supplies  the  moral dimension in the narrative of the self in community” (Schrag, 1993: 100). (71)

Identity  is  not  only  a  matter  of  apriori formulation and categorical determination; it is also an aspect of an unfolding narrative. To talk of identity then is to talk of narrative identity as Paul Ricouer would teach us and this is crucial to our idea of a capable subject. (71)

For Ricouer, “[We must distinguish] between the identity of the self from that of things.  This latter kind of identity comes down in the final analysis to the  stability,  even  the  immutability  of  a  structure…Narrative  identity,  in contrast, admits change. The mutability is that of the characters in stories we tell, who are emplotted along with the story itself” (Ricouer, 2000: 3). (71)

Narrative identity helps us overcome the limits of reification of identity in identity politics and this task of overcoming is further facilitated by realizing the distinction between identity and identification. While preoccupation with identity has the implication of absolutization, determination and fixation, an engagement with processes of identification makes us sensitive to the process of identity formation which is a constant negotiation between the desire to reify and the desire to fly the chains of essential fixation. (72)

A concern with identification as different from identity tells us that there  is  no  essential  confrontation  between  identity  and  difference  and differences have not only a creative and productive role to play in unsettling identity but also helping us to realize the other within and in its manifold creative unfoldment (Connolly, 1991). (73)

Identity politics now needs to be transformed by an openness to the other and through such a dialogical opening we can recreate civil society as a space of ethico-political  mobilization  of  the  subject. (77)

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