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

January 22, 2013 Leave a comment

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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Richard Jenkins “Social Identity”

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Jenkins, Richard 2008. Social Identity. London; New York: Routledge.

Identity Matters

As a very basic starting point, identity is the human capacity – rooted in language – to know ‘who’s who’ (and hence ‘what’s what’). This involves knowing who we are, knowing who others are, them knowing who we are, us knowing who they think we are, and so on: a multi-dimensional classification or mapping of the human world and our places in it, as individuals and as members of collectivities (cf. Ashton et al. 2004). It is a process – identification – not a ‘thing’. It is not something that one can have, or not; it is something that one does. (5)

[…] where identity does appear to be an emotional matter – and hence capable of influencing actions – this does not seem to be inevitable, or natural. Identification has to be made to matter, through the power of symbols and ritual experiences, for example. (6)

 

Similarity and Difference

Identity can only be under-stood as a process of ‘being’ or ‘becoming’. One’s identity – one’s identities, indeed, for who we are is always multi-dimensional, singular and plural – is never a final or settled matter. (17)

[…] for sociological purposes identification can be defined minimally thus:

• ‘Identity’ denotes the ways in which individuals and collectivities are distinguished in their relations with other individuals and collectivities.

• ‘Identification’ is the systematic establishment and signification, between individuals, between collectivities, and between individuals and collectivities, of relationships of similarity and difference.

• Taken – as they can only be – together, similarity and difference are the dynamic principles of identification, and are at the heart of the human world. (18)

 

A Sign of the Times

In international politics, to take another example, identity seems to have become a symbolic public good the defence of which asserts a legitimacy that is beyond criticism or opposition. Reified into a sacred and holy apotheosis, identity is something to which everyone has a right. (29)

 

Understanding Identification

One of the assumptions that much social science has in common with the ‘everyday thinking’ of ‘common sense’ or ‘common knowledge’ is a radical distinction between the individual and the collective. This means that collective identity and individual identity are typically understood as different kinds of phenomena, and the relationships between unique individuality and shared collectivity tend to be unexamined or treated as axiomatic. (37)

In this book I adopt another approach. This perspective, which is not dramatically new, argues that:

• with respect to identification, the individually unique and the collectively shared can be understood as similar in important respects;

• the individual and the collective are routinely entangled with each other;

• individual and collective identifications only come into being within interaction;

• the processes by which each is produced and reproduced are analogous;

• the theorisation of identification must therefore accommodate the individual and the collective in equal measure. (37-38)

There is nothing collectivist about this: the individual is, in fact, placed at the heart of the enterprise (although not more so than the collective). What Mills calls ‘society’ – and I call the ‘human world’ (Jenkins 2002a: 3–5) – is the field upon which the individual and the collective meet and meld. (38)

Leaning heavily on Erving Goffman and, to some extent, Anthony Giddens, I suggest that the world as constructed and experienced by humans can be best understood as three distinct ‘orders’:

the individual order is the human world as made up of embodied individuals and what-goes-on-in-their-heads;

the interaction order is the human world as constituted in relationships between individuals, in what-goes-on-between-people;

the institutional order is the human world of pattern and organisation, of established-ways-of-doing-things. (39)

Appropriating the methodological distinction between groups and categories, a distinction can be made between a collectivity which identifies and defines itself (a group for itself) and a collectivity which is identified and defined by others (a category in itself). (43)

Identification is something over which struggles take place and with which strategems are advanced – it is means and end in politics – and at stake is the classification of populations as well the classification of individuals. (45)

[…] identity is a strategic concept in broaching these questions:

• Although identities are necessarily attributes of embodied individuals, they are equally necessarily collectively constituted, sometimes at a high level of abstraction. In identification, the collective and the individual occupy the same space.

• If identity is conceptualised in terms of process, as identification at work and at play in the interaction order, the distinction between structure and action may be avoided.

• If those processes are conceptualised as a perpetual dialectic of two analytically (but only analytically) distinct moments – the internal and the external – then the opposition between the objective and the subjective may also be sidestepped.

• Since identity is bound up with shared repertoires of intentionality (such as morality) and interactional networks of constraint and possibility, it is an important concept in our understanding of action and its outcomes, both intended and unintended.

• The  institutional order is, at least in part, a network of identities (positions) and of routinised practices for allocating positions (identities) to individuals.

• There is a direct relationship between the distribution of resources and penalties and identification: identity both is a criterion for distribution and is constituted in terms of patterns of distribution (means and end again).

• In the internal and external moments of identification a necessary connection is made between domination and resistance and identification.

• The classification of populations as a practice of state and other agencies is powerfully constitutive both of institutions and of the interactional experience of individuals. (46-47)

 

Selfhood and mind

Thus the meanings of the word ‘self’ parallel the general meanings of ‘identity’ discussed in Chapter 2: there are the core features of similarity, difference, reflexivity and process. This is no coincidence. It leads me to propose a definition of the self as an individual’s reflexive sense of her or his own particular identity, constituted  vis-à-vis others in terms of similarity and difference, without which she or he wouldn’t know who they are and hence wouldn’t be able to act. (49)

Reflexive interaction doesn’t just introduce the wider human world into the individual’s interior world. Without language there is no distinctively human interior world. Without the stimulus of interaction with others there would be nothing to talk about or think. (The) mind is thus simultaneously ‘internal’ and ‘external’. (58)

 

Embodied Selves

In Mead’s social theory, ‘mind, self and society’ are not different kinds of thing. ‘Society’ is relationships between individuals, and individual humans cannot exist outside those relationships. Without relationships human mind and selfhood would not exist. For Mead, selfhood is intrinsically interactional, emerging out of the reciprocal relationship between the individual dialogue in the mind between ‘I’ and ‘me’, on the one hand, and the individual’s dialogue with others during interaction, on the other. ‘Society’ is a conversation between people; the mind is the internalisation of that conversation; the self lies within and between the two. (64)

‘Mind’ is not just ‘cultural’: in some senses it is ‘culture’. We can be ‘of one mind’, but it makes no sense to say that ‘we are of one self’. This suggests that (the) mind and the self are not ‘things’ or ‘objects’, other than grammatically: they are processes. The mind and the self are perpetually in motion, even if it sometimes appears to be slow motion. They are perpetually in a state of ‘becoming’, even if what becomes is similar to what has been. (69)

Selves and minds are not definitively private essences of individuals, ultimately causally prior to their behavior. […] Selfhood does have its own particular status, however, in that it can be thought of as a primary (or basic) identification (69).

Mentioning gender and ethnicity in this context emphasises that primary identifications are neither fixed nor timeless. Identification is something that individuals do, it is a process. As decades of interactionist sociology have documented in detail, even the reproduction of the status quo requires perpetual work of one sort or another. What’s more, primary identifications are only resistant to change, they’re not set in concrete. Change is routine in the human world, occurring for all kinds of reasons, and selfhood, gender and ethnicity are in and of that world. To characterise selfhood as a primary identity – perhaps even as the primary identity – doesn’t imply that it is simply or only individual. (70)

 

Groups and Categories

Logically, inclusion entails exclusion, if only by default. To define the criteria for membership of any set of objects is, at the same time, also to create a boundary, everything beyond which does not belong. It is no different in the human world: one of the things that we have in common is our difference from others. In the face of their difference our similarity often comes into focus. Defining ‘us’ involves defining a range of ‘thems’ also. (102)

The two facets of collectivity are often conceptualised together: collective self-identification derives from similar behaviour and circumstances, or vice versa. This understanding of collectivities dominated sociology during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and still informs much contemporary social theory. It underpins most, if not all, attempts to apply models of causality to the human world, allowing regularities in behaviour to be translated into the principles which are believed to produce that behaviour. (103)

This might suggest that there are two different types of collectivity, and hence two different modes of collective identification. In the first, the members of a collectivity can identify themselves as such: they know who (and what) they are. In the second, members may be ignorant of their membership or even of the collectivity’s existence. The first exists inasmuch as it is recognised by its members; the second is constituted in its recog-nition by observers. Nadel is, however, correct to emphasise (1951: 80) that these are not two different kinds of collectivity. They are, rather, different ways of looking at interaction, at ‘individuals in co-activity’. He is equally right to insist that neither is more ‘real’ or concrete than the other: both are abstractions from data about ‘co-activity’. These different kinds of abstraction provide the basis for the fundamental conceptual distinction between groups and categories. (104)

By this token a group is simply defined sociologically according to a more specific criterion – mutual recognition on the part of its members – than a category, which may, in principle at least, be defined arbitrarily, according to any criteria. (104)

Group identity is the product of collective internal definition. In our relationships with significant others we draw upon iden-tifications of similarity and difference, and, in the process, generate group identities. At the same time, our self-conscious group memberships signify others and create relationships with them. Thus categorisation, no less than group identification, is a generic interactional process, in this case of collective external definition. I have, for example, already suggested that the identification of others – their definition according to criteria of our adoption (which they may neither accept nor recognise) – is often part of the process of identifying ourselves. (105)

Scientific notions of ‘objectivity’ and ‘truth’ derive their epistemological power in part from their ground-ing in procedures of categorisation. In turn, assumptions of objectivity and truth underpin the bureaucratic rationality that is the framework of themodern state. The categorisation of individuals and populations that is the stock in trade of the social sciences is one way in which humans are constituted as objects of government and subjects of the state, via censuses and the like. The reference to taxation in the definition of ‘category’ quoted earlier was apposite. More pointedly, ‘objective’ knowledge about the human world provides one basis – whether that is its rationale or not – for the policing of families and the private sphere which characterises the modern state (Donzelot 1980; Meyer 1983). (107)

Membership of a category is not a relationship between members: it doesn’t even necessitate a relationship between categoriser and categorised. Any inter-personal relationships between members of a category only involve them as individuals. Once relationships between members of a category involve mutual recognition of their categorisation, the first steps towards group identification have been taken. (108)

 

Symbolizing belonging

In summarizing what might otherwise be vast amounts of information about people, condensing it into manageable forms, the symbolisation of identification also allows us, sociologically and in everyday life, to think about and to model – in other words to imagine – collectivities and the relations between them. Symbolisation permits the necessary abstraction of individuals and collectivities, and of the relationships between them, which is the constitutional basis of the notion of ‘society’. Among the most important aspects of the symbolisation of identity in this respect is that it allows individual diversity and collective similarity to co-exist within the human world. There is no need to wonder about why people who ‘are’ the same don’t all ‘do’ the same. (143)

“All our knowledge of our fellow men is in the last analysis based on personal experience. Ideal-typical knowledge of our contemporaries, on the other hand, is not concerned with the other person in his given concrete immediacy but in what he is, in the characteristics he has in

common with others.” (Schutz 1967: 193) This resembles closely my proposition that individual identification emphasises difference, while collective identification emphasises similarity. (145)

 

Institutionalizing Identification

Similarity and difference being irretrievably entangled in each other, where the emphasis falls depends on the point of view. Difference is no less socially constructed than similarity: both are ‘culturally arbitrary’, to use Bourdieu’s expression, but neither, to remember W. I. Thomas, is less ‘real’ than the other. (157)

• An institution is a pattern of behaviour in any particular setting that has become established over time as ‘the way things are done’.

• An institution has intersubjective relevance and meaning in the situation concerned: people know about it and recognise it, if only in the normative specification of ‘how things are done’. (157)

The habitualisation or routinisation of behaviour brings with it two important practical advantages:

• Choices are narrowed to the point where many courses of action or ways of doing things do not have to be chosen (or, indeed, rejected) at all.

• Since we don’t have to think and decide about every little aspect of our daily lives, space for ‘deliberation and innovation’ is opened up: there is no need for every situation to be perpetually encountered and defined anew. (158)

 

Identity and Modernity Revisited

Resistance, whether spontaneous or not, can be a potent affirmation of group identification; organising is necessarily so. We can, however, only resist categorisation if we know that we are being categorised. One development that may be definitive of the early twenty-first century is the massive expansion and extension of individual and population surveillance and monitoring that has been made possible by new information technologies and science (e.g. Norris et al. 2004; Norris and Wilson 2006). Politically legitimated by collective crises of security inspired by new forms of political violence, this ‘new surveillance’ may also serve other more routine and long-term state projects. We are being recorded, categorised and archived by organisations in the public and private sectors, in ways of which we may only be dimly, if at all, aware, and with which we are increasingly required to collude in the pursuit of our routine everyday lives. (205)

Joseph Vining “Human Identity: The Question Presented by Human-Animal Hybridization”

December 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Vining, Joseph 2008. Human Identity: The Question Presented by Human-Animal Hybridization. Stanford Journal of Animal Law & Policy: 50-68.

It is ultimately in law, and not anywhere else, that we meet to decide what we can do to each other or indeed to other creatures. (51)

[…] “animals” as such have been patentable in the United States ever since the Supreme Court ruled that an oil-eating bacterium was patentable. (52)

[…] “genetic analysis to help work out the biochemical pathways underlying memory and clear thinking . . . [O]nly by reducing the differences in human beings will we ever have a society in which we can effectively view all individuals as truly equal.” (55 – James D. Watson)

The idea of a being as somehow less than human speaks directly to the way we treat and have treated animals, our doing to them what we say we would not do to a fellow human being, in the infliction of pain, suffering, death, even clear torture. But the phrase “less than fully human” also speaks to treatment of those who would otherwise  be considered simply fellow “human beings”: historically, and even today, lines based on age or gender as well as race or ethnicity have been drawn between the fully human and the not fully human. (56)

In our present usage, including scientific usage, what makes a species a “species,” what gives an individual being a generic name beyond Joe or Whiskers, is not only an individual’s ability to reproduce something like itself, but an inability to reproduce something that does not look like itself, whatever the variations of detail upon which natural selection might work. The species boundary is determined, whenever there is sexual  reproduction, by an inability to breed. (63)

But as we know there are vast differences today between the way we treat flesh we identify as human and all other flesh, differences that have as their poles love at one end and confinement and torture at the other—the horrors of the factory farm, the testing laboratory, and, it  must be said, what can happen in the university research laboratory. These we justify in utilitarian terms. Human identity is not only an intellectual, aesthetic, or religious matter. Companionship and delight for us may be there beyond human identity, but horror and extermination lie beyond it in much greater measure. (63-64)

Peter J. Burke & Jan E. Stets “Identity Theory and Social Identity Theory”

December 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Burke, Peter J.; Jan E. Stets 2000. Identity Theory and Social Identity Theory. Social Psychology Quarterly 63(3): 224-237

In social identity theory, a social identity is a person’s knowledge that he or she belongs to a social category or group. A social group is a set of individuals who hold a common social identification or view themselves as members of the same social category. Through a social comparison process, persons who are similar to the self are categorizes with the self and are labeled the in-group; persons who differ from the self are categorized as the out-group. (225)

Once in society, people derive their identity or sense of self largely from the social categories to which they belong. Each person, however, over the course of his or her personal history, is a member of a unique combination of social categories; therefore the set of social identities making up that person’s self-concept is unique. (225)

In identity theory, the core of an identity is the categorization of the self as an occupant of a role, and the incorporation, into the self, of the meanings and expectations associate with that role and its performance. (225)

[…] a role-based identity expresses not the uniformity of perceptions and behaviors that accompanies a group-based identity, but interconnected uniqueness. The emphasis is not on the similarity with others in the same role, but on the individuality and interrelatedness with others in counterroles in the group or interaction context. By maintaining the meanings, expectations, and resources associated with a role, role identities maintain the complex interrelatedness of social structures. (227)

Social identity theorists regard the group as a collective of similar persons all of whom identify with each other in similar ways, and hold similar views, all in contrast to members of outgroups. Identity theorists regard the group as a set of interrelated individuals, each of whom performs unique but integrated activities, sees things from his or her own perspective, and negotiates the terms of interaction. (227-228)

People are tied organically to their groups through social identities; they are tied mechanically through their role identities within groups. (228)

In social identity theory, the person (or „personal“) identity is the lowest level of self-categorization. It is the categorization of the self as a unique entity, distinct from other individuals. (228)

The person identity is the set of meanings that are tied to and sustain the self as an individual; these self-meanings operate across various roles and situations in the same way as Deaux believes that some person identities pervade all the membership groups to which one belongs. (229)

[…] identity theorists distinguish between the probability that an identity will be activated (salience) and that an identity actually will be played out in a situation (activation). […] By separating activation from salience, identity theorists can investigate factors such as context […], which activate an identity in the situation, separately from factors such as commitment, which influence the probability that an identity will be played out across situations. (230)

Identity theory focuses on social structural arrangements and the link between persons; social identity theory focuses on characteristics of situations in which the identity may be activated; both theories acknowledge the importance of the individual’s goals and purposes. (231)

The central cognitive process in social identity theory is depersonalization, or seeing the self as an embodiment of the in-group prototype (a cognitive representation of the social category containint the meanings and norms that the person associates with the social category; Hogg et al. 1995). (231)

In regard to the motivational underpinnings of an identity, social identity theory holds that when a group identity is activated, people behave so as to enhance the evaluation of the in-group relative to the out-group and thereby to enhance their own self-evaluation as group members (Turner et al. 1987). (232)

Alain Badiou “The Communist Hypothesis”

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Badiou, Alain 2008. The Communist Hypothesis. New Left Review 49: 29-42.

If we posit a definition of politics as ‘collective action, organized by certain principles, that aims to unfold the consequences of a new possibility which  is  currently  repressed  by  the  dominant  order’,  then  we  would have to conclude that the electoral mechanism is an essentially apolitical procedure. (31)

What is the communist hypothesis? In its generic sense, given in its canonic Manifesto,  ‘communist’  means,  first,  that  the  logic  of  class—the  fundamental  subordination  of  labour  to  a  dominant  class,  the arrangement  that  has  persisted  since  Antiquity—is  not  inevitable;  it can be overcome. The communist hypothesis is that a different collective organization is practicable, one that will eliminate the inequality of wealth and even the division of labour. The private appropriation of mas-sive fortunes and their transmission by inheritance will disappear. The existence of a coercive state, separate from civil society, will no longer appear a necessity: a long process of reorganization based on a free association of producers will see it withering away. (34-35)

‘Communism’ as such denotes only this very general set of intellectual representations. It is what Kant called an Idea, with a regulatory function,  rather  than  a  programme.  It  is foolish  to  call  such  communist principles utopian; in the sense that I have defined them here they are intellectual patterns, always actualized in a different fashion. As a pure Idea of equality, the communist hypothesis has no doubt existed since the beginnings of the state. (35)

The political problem, then, has to be reversed. We cannot start from an  analytic  agreement  on  the  existence  of  the  world  and  proceed  to normative action with regard to its characteristics. The disagreement is not over qualities but over existence. Confronted with the artificial and murderous division of the world into two—a disjunction named by the very term, ‘the West’—we must affirm the existence of the single world right from the start, as axiom and principle. The simple phrase, ‘there  is  only  one  world’,  is  not  an  objective conclusion.  It  is  perfor-mative:  we  are  deciding  that  this  is  how  it  is  for  us. (38)

A first consequence is the recognition that all belong to the same world as myself: the African worker I see in the restaurant kitchen, the Moroccan I see digging a hole in the road, the veiled woman looking after children in a park. That is where we reverse the dominant idea of the world united by objects and signs, to make a unity in terms of living, acting beings, here and now. (39)

The single world of living women and men may well have laws; what it cannot have is subjective or ‘cultural’ preconditions for existence within it—to demand that you have to be like everyone else. The single world is precisely the place where an unlimited set of differences exist. Philosophically, far from casting doubt on the unity of the world, these differences are its principle of existence. (39)

The  simplest  definition  of  ‘identity’  is the series of characteristics and properties by which an individual or a group recognizes itself as its ‘self’. But what is this ‘self’? It is that which, across all the characteristic properties of identity, remains more or less invariant. It is possible, then, to say that an identity is the ensemble of properties that support an invariance. (39-40)

Defined  in  this  way,  by  invariants,  identity  is  doubly  related  to  difference: on the one hand, identity is that which is different from the rest;  on  the  other,  it  is  that  which  does  not  become  different,  which is invariant. The affirmation of identity has two further aspects. The first form is negative. It consists of desperately maintaining that I am not  the  other. […] The second involves the immanent development of identity within a new situation—rather like Nietzsche’s famous maxim, ‘become what you are’. The Moroccan worker does not abandon that which constitutes his individual identity, whether socially or in the family; but he will gradually adapt all this, in a creative fashion, to the place in which he finds himself. He will thus invent what he is—a Moroccan worker in Paris—not through any internal rupture, but by an expansion of identity. (40)

The political consequences of the axiom, ‘there is only one world’, will work  to  consolidate  what  is  universal  in  identities.  An  example—a local experiment—would be a meeting held recently in Paris, where undocumented  workers  and  French  nationals  came  together  to demand the abolition of persecutory laws, police raids and expulsions; to demand that foreign workers be recognized simply in terms of their presence: that no one is illegal; all demands that are very natural for people who are basically in the same existential situation—people of the same world. (40)

The virtue of courage constructs itself through endurance within the impossible; time is its raw material. What takes courage is to operate in terms of a different durée to that imposed by the law of the world. The point we are seeking must be one that can connect to another order of time. (41)

M. Lane Bruner “Rhetorical Theory and the Critique of National Identity Construction”

November 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Bruner, M. Lane 2005. Rhetorical Theory and the Critique of National Identity Construction. National Identities Vol. 7, No. 3: 309-327

The notion of ‘constraint’ in rhetorical theory today, then, refers to the limits imposed upon individuals by the ways in which those subjects are articulated. Furthermore, these constraints are assumed to be generally inaccessible to the constrained (thus their ideological character) (Shotter & Gergen, 1989, pp. 141 /142). While one can argue that there is no getting fully outside of ideology, one can equally argue that subjects are more or less capable of reflecting on the limits and absences their ideological presuppositions entail. In relation to national identities, discursive limits (constraints) are hegemonic narratives maintained by codes of the unspeakable that seek to maintain fictional, although politically consequential, identities, while transgressions are narrative acts that violate those strategies/codes. (314)

One significant shortcoming of earlier Marxist conceptions was the notion that ideology is imposed by those in control of the modes of production. Instead, ideology is more usefully conceived as competing discourses that congeal into generally accepted ways of thinking about an issue or subject, and institutional practices and ideational constraints are a function of those ‘commonsense’ notions. Thus the rhetorical critique of collective identity is based upon isolating what cannot be said in any given articulation and then assessing the likely political import of that collective amnesia. (316)

[…] public memory is thoroughly political, and it is not so much because events and traditions are completely invented, although sometimes they are, but that history is used. (317)

If, on the one hand, a particular articulation of national identity is polemic, based on power politics, homogenises through xenophobic stereotypes, masks it own politically consequential narrative absences or otherwise uses history for self-interested ends, then it is a regressive form of national identity that demonises or commodifies the other, tends towards violence and inhibits radically honest critique. If, on the other hand, a particular articulation of national identity problematises itself, is based on the universalisation of democracy and human rights, supports constitutional patriotism and eagerly welcomes an interrogation of its own narrative limits, then it is a progressive form of national identity that recognises the other, tends towards communication and encourages radically honest critique. (320-321)

The critical rhetorical approach to national identity critique follows McKerrow’s advice in that it locates articulations of national identity, as well as the contexts for those articulations, and then analyses responses to those articulations to isolate the selective absences they reveal. In doing so, it weakens the unifying potential of egregious articulations in order to maintain their democratic development. By identifying precisely what cannot be said, critics can more precisely ‘diagnose’ a given characterisation of the people. (321)

All identification practices marginalise, but that does not mean that all identification practices marginalise equally or that we can simply do away with identity. Nevertheless, dominant characterisations of national identities oftentimes, if not usually, mask significant social contradictions, marginalise other voices and repress scepticism through the promotion of unity at the expense of radically honest social critique. (321)

To productively destabilise national identity is to destabilise articulations of national identity that naturalise and essentialise what it means to be a hero-patriot. In a post-national world, the hero-patriot is transformed into the critical citizen-subject whose political actions are based on a reflexive understanding of the marginalisations that accompany their necessarily limited and prejudiced subject positions. (322)

Nancy Fraser “Rethinking Recognition”

October 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Fraser, Nancy 2000. Rethinking Recognition. – New Left Review 3: 107-120

We are facing, then, a new constellation in the grammar of political claims-making—and one that is disturbing on two counts. First, this move from redistribution to recognition is occurring despite—or because of—an acceleration of economic globalization, at a time when an agg ressively expanding capitalism is radically exacerbating economic inequality. In this context, questions of recognition are serving less to supplement, complicate and enrich redistributive struggles than to marginalize, eclipse and displace them. I shall call this  the problem of displacement. (108)

Second, today’s recognition struggles are occurring at a moment of hugely increasing transcultural interaction and communica-tion, when accelerated migration and global media flows are hybridizing and pluralizing cultural forms. Yet the routes such struggles take often serve not to promote respectful interaction within increasingly multi-cultural contexts, but to drastically simplify and reify group identities. They tend, rather, to encourage separatism, intolerance and chauvin-ism, patriarchalism and authoritarianism. I shall call this the problem of reification. (108)

The usual approach to the politics of recognition—what I shall call the ‘identity model’— starts from the Hegelian idea that identity is con-structed dialogically, through a process of mutual recognition. According to Hegel, recognition designates an ideal reciprocal relation between subjects, in which each sees the other both as its equal and also as sepa-rate from it. This relation is constitutive for subjectivity: one becomes an individual subject only by virtue of recognizing, and being recog-nized by, another subject. Recognition from others is thus essential to the development of a sense of self. To be denied recognition—or to be ‘misrecognized’—is to suffer both a distortion of one’s relation to one’s self and an injury to one’s identity. (109)

By equating the politics of recognition with identity politics, it encour-ages both the reification of group identities and the displacement of redistribution. (110)

[…] culturalist proponents of identity politics simply reverse the claims of an earlier form of vulgar Marxist economism: they allow the politics of recognition to displace the politics of redistribution, just as vulgar Marxism once allowed the politics of redistribution to displace the politics of recognition. In fact, vulgar culturalism is no more adequate for understanding contemporary society than vulgar economism was. (111)

Displacement, however, is not the only problem: the identity politics model of recognition tends also to reify identity. Stressing the need to elaborate and display an authentic, self-affirming and self-generated collective identity, it puts moral pressure on individual members to conform to a given group culture. Cultural dissidence and experimen-tation are accordingly discouraged, when they are not simply equated with disloyalty. (112)

Ironically, then, the identity model serves as a vehicle for misrecognition: in reifying group identity, it ends by obscuring the politics of cultural identifi cation, the struggles within the group for the authority—and the power—to represent it. By shielding such struggles from view, this approach masks the power of dominant fractions and reinforces intragroup domination. The identity model thus lends itself all too easily to repressive forms of communitarianism, promoting conformism, intolerance and patriarchalism. (112)

Paradoxically, moreover, the identity model tends to deny its own Hegelian premisses. Having begun by assuming that identity is dialogical, constructed via interaction with another subject, it ends by valorizing monologism—supposing that misrecognized people can and should construct their identity on their own. (112)

I shall consequently propose an alternative approach: that of treating recognition as a question of social status. From this perspective, what requires recognition is not group-specific identity but the status of individual group members as full partners in social interaction. Misrecognition, accordingly, does not mean the depreciation and defor-mation of group identity, but social subordination—in the sense of being prevented from participating as a peer in social life. To redress this injustice still requires a politics of recognition, but in the ‘status model’ this is no longer reduced to a question of identity: rather, it means a politics aimed at overcoming subordination by establishing the misrecog nized party as a full member of society, capable of participating on a par with the rest. (113)

[…] misrecognition is neither a psychic deformation nor a free-standing cultural harm but an institutionalized relation of social subordination. To be misrecognized, accordingly, is not simply to be thought ill of, looked down upon or devalued in others’ attitudes, beliefs or representations. It is rather to be denied the status of a full partner in social interaction […] (113)

[…] the status model tailors the remedy to the concrete arrangements that impede parity. Thus, unlike the identity model, it does not accord an a priori privilege to approaches that valorize group specifi city. Rather, it allows in principle for what we might call universalist recognition, and deconstructive recognition, as well as for the affi rmative recognition of difference. The crucial point, once again, is that on the status model the politics of recognition does not stop at identity but seeks institutional remedies for institutionalized harms. Focused on culture in its socially grounded (as opposed to free-floating) forms, this politics seeks to overcome status subordination by changing the values that regulate interaction, entrenching new value patterns that will promote parity of participation in social life. (114-115)

Unlike the identity model, then, the status model understands social justice as encompassing two analytically distinct dimensions: a dimension of recognition, which concerns the effects of institutionalized meanings and norms on the relative standing of social actors; and a dimension of distribution, which involves the allocation of disposable resources to social actors. (115)

The recognition dimension corresponds to the status order of society, hence to the constitution, by socially entrenched patterns of cultural value, of culturally defi ned categories of social actors—status groups—each distinguished by the relative honour, prestige and esteem it enjoys vis-à-vis the others. The distributive dimension, in contrast, corresponds to the economic structure of society, hence to the constitu-tion, by property regimes and labour markets, of economically defined categories of actors, or classes, distinguished by their differential endow-ments of resources. (116)