The Politics of Identity Author(s): Kwame Anthony Appiah Source: Daedalus, Vol. 135, No. 4, On Identity (Fall, 2006), pp.

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and.Kwame Anthony Appiah The politics of identity 1 am never quite sure what people mean when they talk about 'identity politics.' com though.. "TheEthics of Identity" (2005). those said. His publications include "Asser tion and Conditionals" (1985). 'Ameri en effet a synonym is for 'bad. feller University Professor of Philosophy and the University Centerfor Human Values at Prince ton University. better. else. Here's one someone example: When in France suggested gay marriage was a com good idea. difficulty with social iden is the that very diversity of that list tity can leave you all whether wondering identities have anything interest common. plain about political politics. partly because has many identities. but it is the one we use. One problem : it can with 'identity' suggest that ev eryone strong In short. 18 Aug 2013 23:23:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .' people 'Sexuality has treatment?' created Kwame Anthony Appiah.126 on Sun. people do. Rocke of a certain sense idem. identity i. is what other Identity politics someone to do with the government. ? 2006 by the American & Sciences Academy of Arts internally quite each of us heterogeneous. whose point is exactly that mar 'Much riage is open to any two citizens. many French people was in that this another plained just of American-style identity poli tics. play in our lives. is Laurance S. class.0. gender to nationality?1 i I'm reminded of Jorge Luis famous Borges's to have claimed in found in fact. The right response to this problem is just to be aware of the risk. in mean What did it when ing I added 'and so on' just now to a list that ran from Well. But I think there is away of explain ing why identity matters.') can-style' on 'Why should lesgays insist special stance not be the best word So the French legislature the Pacte Civil de Solidarit? (PACs). Isn't that straight identity politics ? I think that what Sir John so Harrington sagely said of treason : it is largely true of identity politics never seems to prosper it only because has largely won the political stage.' nothing You might wonder how someone who said that could think that civil marriage should not be open to gays. 'Identity' may for bringing roles together the gender. well. the is in some same. as you know. "Cosmopolitanism :Ethics in a World of Strangers" (2006).e. race.118. One's own are preoccupations just. a Fellow of theAmer ican Academy since 1995. when. so on and nationality. "In My Fath House : er's in the Africa Philosophy of Culture" (1992). most groups are But another these example of a list he D dalus Fall 2006 15 This content downloaded from 99. they bring it up to Usually. (In France. most recently.

This :Identities are of identification in part. These crite ria need not be the same for everyone. 'because they're Ameri cans. And the can be very serious :think of politics in South the struggle against apartheid force Africa. (c) those and ends mermaids. Politicians mobilize this sort of feeling all the time. Why? Because he's an Ameri can and so are to they." (e) (d) suckling pigs. People don't only do and avoid doing things because they're X's. It begins : "(a) those that belong to the Emperor.118. as Here is room for politics. Treatment: Finally. Norms useful. : mere classifica By itself. 18 Aug 2013 23:23:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . use en to to the government people try their likes and dislikes. own account of social identities IVJLy I explain how the is nominalist because identities work by talking about the la bels the names for them. so certain properties. Indeed. or wheth : itmay affect what re er they're polite sources you have access to. an ancient Chinese encyclopedia. some as X's . some will people identify as X's . ones. Here : of herself identifies times feels like or acts as an X. (b) that are trained. the Capitol.. with an American accent. Unkindness an treatment form of equally frequent directed toward out-group members. In other words. Identification tion does not produce what Imean by 'a a classifica social identity.' Iwish I knew as an X in the relevant way. When feelings.. He sees a ple Joe Kansas one of lost-looking couple and hears them say.and X people will treat others will have norms of identification. when they can . low Englishwoman. he goes up to them and tells them the way. who has just scaled Everest. because once we ascribe on really French? This form of identity politics involves negotiation (not necessarily by way of the state) of of various groups. in part. an Xis to in feel like respond affectively on your away that as depends identity an X." What embalmed here? is not just because the criteria of ascription entail that mem bers of the group have. or tend to have. At the boundaries the same time. there are things that. she as an X.126 on Sun.Kwame Anthony Appiah on identity you can only answer that sort of ques a tion by proposing theory of identity. this isn't just amatter of what people say about you.' What makes tion a relevant social identity is not just that some people are called X's but also that being an X figures in their thoughts. If being a de vout Muslim is inconsistent with being not to go to a able be French. honey. You may feel a fel proud of Mary.0. an someone we can often identity to make predictions about her behavior that basis. : Ascription The criteria of ascription on the basis of for X are the properties into those we do which we sort people and those we don't call X's. For exam : is in Rome. When Joe tells those lost tour ists the way to the Capitol. flies from a dis that resemble with "(n) those to add 'and so on' it mean would tance. a person thinks and acts. say. to treat someone as an X is to do to her because something she is an X. once more. Take some X..more scope then for a politiciza tion of identities. which means she some the route to Since Joe's just come from there. as X's. they l6 D dalus Fall 2006 This content downloaded from 99. people lywhich properties is scope for one kind of identity politics Are F-to-M transgender people men? Are Muslims will on exact rarely agree must X's have. he's helping them. It's also because cial identities of behavior are associated with norms for X's. you might state school with your hijab on. My proposal arbitrary identity-label X will have criteria of ascription is : .' Kindness of this sort is a common form of treatment directed toward fel is low in-group members. 'Gee.

are an obvious exten that relationships sion of the general rubric :you can be X's father and identify as such.vocations nalist. gender. It the Carlyle's famously "Gad! She'd better!" might be best to lead a life inwhich you treat others as they be treated. jour . fan. Fatherhood someone has norms things dads ought to do. D dalus Fall 2006 17 This content downloaded from 99. philosopher) (artist. formal . 2000). doctor. he said. 'We'd identi The politics of identity going to ask how large a part ty. that Mass. with one another. more broadly. or. University 1. ethnicity. (Cam Sovereign Virtue : Harvard Press. life directly. cosmopolitan). I am too short to be a successful 2 Ronald bridge.0. con There are also servative. jazz aficio nado. Catholic. The existence to A amounts only to its and widely un thought being widely to be thought . . Muslims ought to make the Hajj. as our dealings. it helps to not even with to deal with answer that question begin social politics. or treat as X's dad.) on what itmeans for human lives to go well. whether we take politics narrow sense of our dealings with the state.118.and Thomas robust rejoinder."2 Each of us has a life to live. for us to have eudaimonia. not are some the of type of norms examples men I have in mind. but with the 'ethical mean life' of individuals.') has important connections with morali me to which Ronald Dworkin ty. This story an : swers the questions what things 'like' are what it class race. nationality. " verse ! . men ought not to eat pork.' But ifwe're point was. it appears to be either 'fer' or 'agin' them. fn. it's reasonable these identities should play in our politi in the cal lives. and includes morality a person should about how principles treat other people.gay ought not to fall in love with women . taught :Eth as follows from ethics distinguish about ics. 485. be cruel or many options. (Apparently. and so on/ We can now add. The 'ought' would call a here iswhat a philosopher the ordinary general practical ought some one. We face but they leave us many moral demands.affiliations. 'There it is. Of course. live in many ways without these vices. and other more airy labels (dandy. Mason). all of us also have constraints of historical and mental circumstances endowments and physical : Iwas born in to be a Yoruba Oba book meant at once how wide JL/et me underscore a range of kinds of people fit the gener al rubric I have laid out. in social lo life.' Carlyle's better deal with it. and informal (Man. blacks people ought to ought to support affirmative action. (This is Aristotle's word. We mustn't for example. pro fessional identities (lawyer. U. a Ethics is reflection bly wasn't Aristotle. but we can still dishonest. open gay ought come out. By 'ethics. identities are. Note that Dworkin's allows definition ethical might should subsume the moral. Positively: women to for doors . for example. Conservative.that X's ought derstood that X's ought to A. Ei silly ther posture calls to mind the full-heart ed avowal of the American transcenden the uni talist Margaret Fuller. 18 Aug 2013 23:23:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .ought and ought not to do. means to say 'gender. novelist) composer. 'flourishing. perhaps best translated as in this sense.126 on Sun. "includes convictions which kinds of lives are good or bad for a person to lead. To say these norms exist isn't to en of a norm dorse them. "I accept If this iswhat to the wrong family and with the wrong body for mother hood.' I like what whoever put the something label Nichomachean Ethics on that ancient not with it proba by it. Negatively: ought men not to wear dresses . Ethics. Here special moral ought. Dworkin.blacks ought not to embarrass the race Muslims .

to exander publish was that suggesting leaving it to his publish brother Al Another proba so Friedrich with Willhelm. And context feature identities to put the social it's important we normally talk about in the of all these others. 4 That's the perhaps one he didn't essay himself. But individuality duced in a vacuum. fection of their citizens. point of they view of ethics."3 Liber :re als realize that we need other people an not for is endorse spect individuality ment of individualism. Thoughtful managing friends.) Chapter 2. bridge essay. own there. a diverse range Why do we have such of social identities and relations? One answer. believes these choices belong. Because are important. not is And. though written See the editor's introduction. our interac tions with others help shape it. the available social forms and. 1969). might the gay part. But the fact is. in our after the pas as his first exam of the sexes"). because the all from the share.Kwame Anthony Appiah on identity basketball professional player and insuf a to concert pianist. Burrow The Limits of State Press. and Hum the highest ends of his existence.' tional words. "Of the individual man. provided give others their moral due. gins Everybody . was not first published in a fairly complete form until vii. as a social species designed for von Humboldt. to is life my up coercion.126 on Sun. And a union. known to us now as The Limits of State Action. bly wasn't popular of Prussia. Chapter as one 3 of On Liberty ("On individuality is the of well-being") of the elements of this no classic English formulation as tion of individuality. like 'father. JLou might object that I count too many as social identities. benevolent sages. should have great to make in shaping a variety of decisions liberal. and written Humboldt. close to dis too. of Frederick the Great King nephew come to think of it. rather. reason :Cam (Cambridge Humboldt's 9. the shaping of me.4 relationships. sage I just quoted. and anxious relatives rightly offer advice as to how to proceed. liked have who. of course..based on the individual wants and capacities of its members. an etiological one.a has or. But it ought to be advice. at least. posthumously. University in 1891 -1892. J.W. This means the standard er I'm flourishing I define for myself. Humboldt. 18 Aug 2013 23:23:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the job of my life ismine. 1852. at least two things. one in is those rela of short. gives ("the union ple marriage and then drifts perilously cussing homosexual are. we decide wheth by which life. with many possibilities. Mill freely but. . wrong en in the per interested governments by In other words. as these other identities the usual ethical social identities lives. 'Spouse.118. that each is enabled to participate in the rich col lective resources of the others. limits on the state This content downloaded from 99. be ficiently musical even But when we have taken these each human life be things into account. in part." that it is "through a social boldt wrote l8 D dalus Fall 2006 these matters things that my account includes things we don't normally think of as social iden tities is actually an advantage. ed. First. (It's a good thing that's how we title was actually know it: the German about Ideen zu einem Versuch die Grenzen der In Wirksamkeit des Staats zu bestimmen. speaks to our evolution 3Wilhelm Action. set by aims I Second. like me. to the person whose life it is. once I have done my duty. philosophical in the end.0. is that people make use of them in seeking eudaimonia. his acknowledged thinking had been profound von an essay of Wilhelm ly shaped by in the 1790s. just as private coercion it is also when undertak wrong.' that fit the model. What John Stuart Mill taught us to is one term for this call individuality our isn't pro task.

.5 The politics of identity we another. are unless there is of Recognition. ily in the same moral. Law. The range of options sufficient ing for each of us isn't enough for us all. Multiculturalism ed. Axel Honneth. D dalus Fall 2006 19 This content downloaded from 99. there is answer: a corresponding diversity in their modes of life. church. and can no more exist health a X hilosophers have written good deal one way in which social about recently identities have figured in politics. people are making up new identi ties all the time : 'gay' is basically four decades old. 1995). work. Imean what Morality by which we owe to one another . Cf.. 'punk' is younger. we have the sort of in-group soli why darities that and out-group antagonisms have been exploring social psychologists for the last half century. we can see how much an original identity needs and is vulnerable or withheld to the recognition given by he others. : Voltaire's undertake that we voluntarily garden at Ferney shaped the last years of as women. : Examining Gutmann Press. people because. of Toronto Press. his life. Mass.0. nor grow up to the mental. : University 270.to central often negatively central 5 John Stuart Mill. For we make our lives as men and as Yanks and as Brits. In deed. as Cath olics and as Jews we them as phi . name ly in what 'politics of other people role in shaping is. homosexuals. have not treated certain individuals with respect because they were. But different persons also require different conditions for their spiritual de velopment. women. Taylor describes who have these characteristics find them . this pro cess in intimate life : "On the in begins timate level. John M. that is reason enough for not attempting to shape them all after one model. they neither obtain their fair share of happiness. Be cause our identities are 'dialogically' as it.is also part of on which we make that the scaffolding So are various projects construction. school. Jews. equally persuasive our human use identities to construct lives." Relationships. As Mill said in one of my favorite passages from : On of Chapter 3 Liberty If itwere only that people have diversi ties of taste. But from the point of view of a crea ture with that psychology. vol. As Charles Hegelian language The of recognition."6 But that's identities Our just the beginning. 36. significant cru says.J. don't depend on interactions in intimate life alone. 18 Aug 2013 23:23:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 6 Charles the Politics (Princeton. we make and losophers Iden them as fathers and as daughters. than all the variety of plants can exist in the same physical at and climate. in this pro tities are a central resource cess. and aesthetic statures of which their nature is capable. in The Collected Works Robson 1963-1991). ed. moral. 18. an enormous need array of tools in mak a life. 1994).. of John (Toronto Stuart Mill. make as novelists.126 on Sun. (He really meant what he said at the end of Candide.) Identities are so diverse and extensive in the modern world. mates. and many other institu tions also shape us. are "crucial because they are cibles of inwardly generated identity.118. to another. people shaped. blacks. Amy of his higher nature. this fact doesn't play tell us what in the regulation role the state should of such acts of rec ognition. for example. The Strugglefor Rec ognition (Cambridge.in search the game of coalition building This is and protection. On Liberty. :Princeton N.' labels the responses a crucial play one obviously one's sense of who Taylor points out. However. The same things mosphere which are helps to one person towards the cultivation hindrances Taylor. we live in societies that Unfortunately. University : MIT Press. of food.

they move. declining to stay in the closet.to serve in to the military. But if one is to be out of the closet in a of society that deprives homosexuals one then and respect. 18 Aug 2013 23:23:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . one must against one's dignity. among oth being gay. But they weren't asking for rec were ask of their identity. it's equally impor tant not to pursue a politics of recogni entails tak tion too far. see that. But what can itmean for the state ? On one side ex lies the individual oppressor whose 20 D dalus Fall 2006 :I have no objec social negotiations of this This content downloaded from 99. For example. or contempt. the right to live as an 'open' homosexual It is not enough. to Romanticism) of limitation we quires us to express who centrally so are. they vote. And since amodern ethics of authenticity (which re goes back. next. for tol of the heroes erance. is the state to in and insult but as valuable parts of who they are. and Catholics. One those who have seeing sources these The politics of recogni we grasp that this is form of healing pursued by these identities identities collective involves not as of contempt may be part of pressions who he or she is. American after Stonewall homosexual Since and gay liberation closet. in the United States and gay movement so it does pursues recognition. States campaigned so very often as blacks and as did they women. these old restrictions suggested negative norms of identi substantially a life with fication. as gay. In social life. ognition name in the So not all political claims made of a group identity are primarily claims for recognition. for rights be that would worth marry having even if they came without recognition. to demanding as them homo women. tervene? There if at all. aminimal of this sort may presuppose sense of recognition. that doesn't just permit identity politics but demands that I treat my skin color or a series of positive This new of identification.Kwame their identities. and works. recodes being a faggot as conception requires. while members of groups that have experienced historical exclusion. and whose rights of are presumably free expression ground ed. Thus. How. then the development of strong norms can become not liber of identification a kind of is but There ating oppressive. go only if his or her is consistent with self identity sion. constructing dignity norms of entails developing positive an identification instead. stereotypes. to assemble gay norms takes the script of the in community with are all sorts of undoubtedly that be here : laws done things might or verbal harassment hate against speech state education in the workplace.118. but it entails a good the lesbian when deal more. others. that be for that would mean accepting some to counts homosexual degree ing Instead. On respect. If recognition ing notice of one's identity in social life.126 on Sun. is not even enough to be treated with equal dignity despite being homosexual. in the connection between and self-expres individuality the other. by asking . equal dignity must constantly deal with assaults on one's dignity. roughly. too. When United blacks and women in the for the vote. Similarly. precisely. to resist the the cultural work necessary to to the insults. for the Participation ing. which er things.0. at least in part. public celebrations to But it's important of the oppressed. ciety recognize and do sexuals. obloquy may indeed need new social in order to flourish. ask to be respected that others could ac This is a demand cede to as individuals tion to calling sort a kind of micropolitics. blacks. practices are what they seeking is not always recog nition. Anthony Appiah on identity tion starts when wrong. the oppressed indi can whose life best vidual. challenge lift the restrictions.

standard old-style Marxist identities other than class-based in the of seeing where our real way get interests lie. (There's some truth to this. In and Marxist. So here.118. based in been D dalus Fall 2006 21 This content downloaded from 99.my sexuality as central to my social life. self-respect wobbly Now I think that for many of them that vote was amistake. class as defined clined by one's work has de in significance in people's iden tifications. there is no clear line between and a new kind recognition of oppression. balance be should between. that you would pick. and other identities more But in that's ing political weight. in the United States Many people voted for George Bush in part because someone who was. par are less strong than ty affiliations they are bear used to be. a sincere evangelical Christian. not care. proper say. Christian Democrat. it is sensible to practice a of labor. sensibly don't hang their on that rather peg. right. In isn't all that recognition our deed. That used to cognitive division work by creating political identities left. I be eign adventures. refus to lesbian and rela gay ing recognize tionships mentions George in any way. if you had the time. all by themselves. and getting lots of for God in public life. Republican. many of the advanced democracies. They voted as evangeli cals. Even though my 'race' or my sexuality of my individuality. an evangelical Christian. has on the rise since the 1960s. VAT and income taxes. norms in of identifica stituted part by tion and by treatment. big-1 Liberal. but it's also be cause like you may people sufficiently actually pick policies. because sensi work ble people have better things to do than what the out. pension provision. We a and with parties for identify people of includ reasons. small-1 liberal. Labour. sons and their in for losing daughters And though he is. consists.) point matters. So what Bush The politics of identity and says about abortion even to them draws him. as inmany places in life. This ask to be recognized. like they wanted in the them. when they do think about them. V^ne reasonable criticism of identity out then. because of the older part many party af were filiations and social class-based. lieve.at stake when people resembles criticism ones the that and probably George Bush hasn't done in changing the law on won't do much issues of so-called social that the many Christians might be thought evangelical to care about: stopping abortions. and then we're rather inclined to support all the policies of that person or party. at best. since George Bush's are bad for many of the actual policies to them . In that very profound way a the declining social salience of class. because our identities shape aims and our aims help fix our interests. but most recognition. but this. White House. Tory.0. Democrat. This is. 18 Aug 2013 23:23:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Getting wave from the White House may count as state I suppose. in part.126 on Sun. new kind of identity politics. is very obliquely a point about a recognition. homosexuality someone if should else though they pick rather cared about than iden they policy tity. as a though good liberal. we can have real so-to-speak identity in terests as well. I don't think our real interests are our economic just But is not just that the here ones. in pointing of than recognition . may be elements someone who insists that I organize my life around these things is not an ally of are con Because identities individuality. variety psychological of this prepolitical ing identifications feature of modern sort.health things that matter most evangelicals tax policy. politics that there's more ten much more This kind of politics is actually a deep democratic life.

22 D dalus Fall 2006 This content downloaded from 99. 18 Aug 2013 23:23:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . can be a social micropolitics enforcing norms of identification. Maybe it's not so surprising then that. (2) Politicians (3) States can treat people of distinct identities differently. And (6) There are inherently political identities like party (7) social groups can to respond collectively to all of mobilize the above. as I said at the start. flicts about who's in and who's can mobilize identities.118. I'm never quite sure what people mean when they talk about identity politics.0. (4) People can pur sue a (5) There politics of recognition. identifications.' political out.Kwame X count Anthony Appiah on identity seven different ways in which I've said that you might speak of 'iden are con There (1) tity politics.126 on Sun.

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