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Introduction Identity, History, Narrative

  • Michael Borgstrom
Chapter
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Part of the The Future of Minority Studies book series (FMS)

Abstract

It is time to return to identity. To many, such an assertion may sound paradoxical, even naive, since it could be argued that analytical work over the past several decades has never really abandoned considerations of identity. Studies of race, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, class, and disability (and the intersections among them) continue to be produced by scholars in a number of fields, and this sustained interest in identity appears to be mirrored in the popular consciousness as well. It clearly matters a great deal to a great many people, for example, that the United States elected its first president of (known) African American descent; that President Obama, in turn, nominated the first Latina woman to the nation’s Supreme Court; that the economic challenges during this presidency’s infancy have highlighted profound disparities in class; and that one of the primary political (and social) issues confronting the new administration is whether gay and lesbian citizens should, or should not, have the right to marry. Identity, it seems, is as pertinent a topic as it ever has been.

Keywords

Social Knowledge Social Identity Racial Identity Progressive Politics Social Difference 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    As my comments here indicate, extremely diverse groups of critics, for extremely diverse reasons, have argued forcefully against both identity-based social struggles and analyses of identity more generally While some see identity categories (and, indeed, identity itself) as threatening to individual freedom, others worry that such coalitions endanger progressive social movement; consequently, identity-based analyses have been assailed by a wide spectrum of political sensibilities. The scholarship here is far-reaching, and I will discuss particular instances of these various positions in the chapters that follow. For representative examples, however, see Peter Brimelow, Alien Nation: Common Sense about America’s Immigration Disaster (New York: Harper Perennial, 1996)Google Scholar
  2. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge: 1990)Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Walter Benn Michaels, The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality (New York: Henry Holt, 2006), 206.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Jean-Luc Nancy, The Birth to Presence, trans. Brian Holmes (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 10.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Bill Albertini et al., “Is There Life after Identity Politics?,” New Literary History 31.4 (2000): 622.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Linda Martin Alcoff and Satya P. Mohanty, “Reconsidering Identity Politics: An Introduction,” in Identity Politics Reconsidered, ed. Linda Martin Alcoff et al. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 6.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    Timothy B. Powell, “Introduction: Re-Thinking Cultural Identity,” in Beyond the Binary: Reconstructing Cultural Identity in a Multicultural Context, ed. Timothy B. Powell (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1999), 1–13.Google Scholar
  8. 22.
    In this regard, see especially Cathy N. Davidson and Jessamyn Hatcher, eds., No More Separate Spheres! A Next Wave American Studies Reader (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  9. Karen L. Kilcup, ed., Soft Canons: American Women Writers and Masculine Tradition (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999)Google Scholar
  10. Lora Romero, Home Fronts: Domesticity and Its Critics in the Antebellum United States (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  11. 23.
    Lawrence Buell, “Circling the Spheres: A Dialogue,” American Literature 70.3 (1998): 472–73.Google Scholar
  12. 28.
    Diana Fuss, Identification Papers (New York: Routledge, 1995), 2–3.Google Scholar
  13. 31.
    Glenn Hendler, Public Sentiments: Structures of Feeling in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 3.Google Scholar
  14. 32.
    Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments ed. Knud Haakonssen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 11–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 38.
    Valerie Smith, Not Just Race, Not Just Gender: Black Feminist Readings (New York: Routledge, 1998), xix.Google Scholar
  16. 40.
    Kenji Yoshino, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (New York: Random House, 2006), 192Google Scholar

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© Michael Borgstrom 2010

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  • Michael Borgstrom

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