The different positions people take on identity depend on the account one gives of identity's relation to the self, that is, the relationship between ascribed social categories and the lived experience of consciousness. Those who take identity to be an a priori problem assume a certain understanding of what consciousness is, or what the core of the self is, such that social ascriptions can operate only oppressively. This chapter develops the alternative to this account that aims to explain why the willful attachment to raced or sexed identities, identities created in conditions of oppression, is not necessarily pathological. It also explains how strongly felt identities can coexist with democratic politics and solidarity across difference. Most importantly, it explains how raced and sexed identities can be compatible with a plausible concept of autonomy and agency.
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