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Visible IdentitiesRace, Gender, and the Self$
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Linda Martín Alcoff

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195137347

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0195137345.001.0001

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The Pathologizing of Identity

The Pathologizing of Identity

(p.11) 1 The Pathologizing of Identity
Visible Identities

Linda Martín Alcoff

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the idea that social identity itself is an a priori problem; that identities, under any description, pose dangers and commits one to mistaken assumptions when they are believed to be real and/or acted upon politically. It discusses identity politics and the theories of Arthur Schlesinger. Schlesinger's arguments demonstrate that the critique of identity politics often manifests ambivalence about the relevance of identity to politics. He does not really want to eradicate all identities, but to keep non-European identities from dominating American identity. Given this, one might think that what we need is simply a more consistent opposition to identities, pursued with equality across both the dominant and the subaltern. However, it is argued that such a plan is neither wholly possible nor necessary for social justice. The real danger is not the likelihood of balkanization resulting from identity politics, but the split that results from a wholesale critique of identity that then perceives minority agendas as a threat to progressive politics. It is this mistaken idea that is endangering the future of progressive alliances.

Keywords:   identity politics, social identity, alliances, Arthur Schlesinger, American identity

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