Beyond "Identity" Author(s): Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper Reviewed work(s): Source: Theory and Society, Vol
. 29, No. 1 (Feb., 2000), pp. 1-47 Published by: Springer Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3108478 . Accessed: 29/02/2012 07:11
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University of California, Los Angeles; University of Michigan
"Theworst thing one can do with words,"wrote George Orwella half a century ago, "is to surrenderto them." If language is to be "an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought,"he continued, one must "let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about."' The argument of this article is that the social sciences and humanities have surrenderedto the word that this has both intellectualand political costs; and that "identity"; we can do better."Identity," argue, tends to mean too much (when we understood in a strong sense), too little (when understoodin a weak We sense), or nothing at all (becauseof its sheerambiguity). take stock of the conceptualand theoreticalwork "identity" supposedto do and is suggestthat this work might be done betterby other terms,less ambiguous, and unencumbered the reifyingconnotationsof "identity." by We argue that the prevailingconstructiviststance on identity - the the attemptto "soften" term, to acquitit of the chargeof "essentialism" by stipulating that identities are constructed, fluid, and multiple leaves us without a rationale for talking about "identities" all and at to examinethe "hard" and essentialistclaims of ill-equipped dynamics contemporaryidentity politics. "Soft"constructivismallows putative "identities"to proliferate.But as they proliferate,the term loses its analytical purchase. If identity is everywhere,it is nowhere. If it is fluid, how can we understandthe ways in which self-understandings may harden,congeal, and crystallize?If it is constructed,how can we understandthe sometimescoerciveforce of externalidentifications? If it is multiple, how do we understandthe terrible singularitythat is often strivenfor - and sometimesrealized - by politicians seeking to transformmere categoriesinto unitaryand exclusivegroups?How can we understandthe powerand pathos of identitypolitics?
Theory and Society 29: 1-47, 2000. ? 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
"Identity"is a key term in the vernacular idiom of contemporary politics, and social analysis must take account of this fact. But this does not requireus to use "identity"as a category of analysis or to as conceptualize"identities" somethingthat all people have, seek, construct, and negotiate.Conceptualizingall affinitiesand affiliations,all and of formsof belonging,all experiences commonality, connectedness, in and cohesion,all self-understandings self-identifications the idiom of saddlesus with a blunt,flat, undifferentiated vocabulary. "identity" We do not aim here to contributeto the ongoing debate on identity politics.2We focus instead on identityas an analyticalcategory.This is not a "merelysemantic"or terminologicalissue. The use and abuse we of "identity," suggest, affectsnot only the languageof social anal- inseparably- its substance.Social analysis- including ysis but also the analysisof identitypolitics - requiresrelativelyunambiguousanalytical categories.Whateverits suggestiveness,whateverits indispensability in certain practical contexts,"identity"is too ambiguous,too and torn between"hard" "soft"meanings,essentialistconnotationsand constructivistqualifiers,to servewell the demandsof social analysis. The "identity"crisis in the social sciences and "Identity" cognate terms in other languageshave a long history as technical terms in Western philosophy, from the ancient Greeks throughcontemporaryanalyticalphilosophy.They have been used to address the perennialphilosophical problemsof permanenceamidst manifest change, and of unity amidst manifest diversity.3 Widespread vernacularand social-analyticaluse of "identity"and its cognates, however,is of much more recent vintage and more localized provenance. into social analysisand its initial diffuThe introductionof "identity" sion in the social sciences and public discourseoccurredin the United States in the 1960s (with some anticipationsin the second half of the
1950s).4 The most important and best-known trajectory involved the appropriation and popularization of the work of Erik Erikson (who was responsible, among other things, for coining the term "identity crisis").5 But as Philip Gleason has shown,6 there were other paths of diffusion as well. The notion of identification was pried from its original, specifically psychoanalytic context (where the term had been initially introduced by Freud) and linked to ethnicity on the one hand
(throughGordon Allport's influential1954 book The Natureof Prejudice) and to sociological role theory and referencegrouptheory on the other (through figures such as Nelson Foote and Robert Merton). Symbolicinteractionistsociology,concernedfrom the outset with "the self," came increasingly to speak of "identity,"in part through the influence of Anselm Strauss.7More influential in popularizing the notion of identity, however, were Erving Goffman, working on the peripheryof the symbolic interactionisttradition, and Peter Berger, workingin social constructionistand phenomenologicaltraditions.8 For a varietyof reasons,the termidentityprovedhighlyresonantin the 1960s,9diffusingquicklyacross disciplinaryand national boundaries, establishingitself in the journalistic as well as the academic lexicon, and permeatingthe language of social and political practice as well as that of social and political analysis. In the American context, the prevalentindividualistethos and idiom gave a particularsalience and resonance to "identity"concerns, particularlyin the contexts of the 1950sthematizationof the "masssociety"problemand the 1960sgenerational rebellions.And from the late 1960s on, with the rise of the Black Power movement, and subsequentlyother ethnic movements for which it served as a template, concerns with and assertions of individual identity, already linked by Erikson to "communal culture," were readily, if facilely, transposed to the group level. The '0 proliferationof identitarianclaim-makingwas facilitatedby the comparativeinstitutionalweakness of leftist politics in the United States and by the concomitantweakness of class-basedidioms of social and political analysis.As numerousanalystshave observed,class can itself be understoodas an identity."1 point here is simply that the weakOur ness of class politics in the United States (vis-a-vis Western Europe) left the field particularly wide open for the profusionof identityclaims. W. idenAlreadyin the mid-1970s, J. M. Mackenziecould characterize and Robert Coles tity as a word "drivenout of its wits by over-use," could remarkthat the notions of identityand identitycrisishad become "the purestof cliches."2But that was only the beginning.In the 1980s, with the rise of race, class, and gender as the "holy trinity"of literary criticism and culturalstudies,13 humanitiesjoined the fray in full the force. And "identitytalk" - inside and outside academia - continues to proliferatetoday.14The "identity" crisis - a crisis of overproduction and consequentdevaluationof meaning- shows no sign of abating.15
Qualitative as well as quantitativeindicators signal the centrality indeedthe inescapability of "identity" a topos. In recentyears,two as new interdisciplinary devoted to the subject, complete with journals star-studdededitorial boards, have been launched.16 And quite apart in fromthe pervasiveconcernwith"identity" workon gender,sexuality, race, religion, ethnicity,nationalism, immigration,new social movements, culture,and "identitypolitics,"even those whose work has not been concernedprimarilywith these topics have felt obligedto address the questionof identity.A selectivelistingof majorsocial theoristsand social scientistswhose main work lies outsidethe traditional"homelands"of identitytheorizingyet who have nonethelesswritten explicitly on "identity"in recent years includes Zygmunt Bauman, Pierre Bourdieu,FernandBraudel,CraigCalhoun,S. N. Eisenstadt,Anthony Giddens, BernhardGiesen, Jurgen Habermas,David Laitin, Claude Levi-Strauss,Paul Ricoeur, Amartya Sen, MargaretSomers, Charles Taylor,CharlesTilly,and HarrisonWhite.'7 Categoriesof practice and categories of analysis Many key terms in the interpretativesocial sciences and history "race," "nation," "ethnicity,""citizenship,""democracy,""class," and "community," "tradition,"for example - are at once categories of social and political practice and categories of social and political analysis. By "categoriesof practice,"following Bourdieu, we mean or somethingakin to what others have called "native" "folk"or "lay" categories.These are categories of everydaysocial experience,developed and deployed by ordinary social actors, as distinguishedfrom We the experience-distant categoriesused by social analysts.18 prefer the expression"categoryof practice"to the alternatives,for while the or latterimply a relativelysharpdistinctionbetween"native" "folk"or categories on the "lay"categories on the one hand and "scientific" are or other, such concepts as "race,""ethnicity," "nation" markedby close reciprocalconnection and mutual influenceamong their practical and analyticaluses.19 too, "Identity," is both a categoryof practiceand a categoryof analysis. As a category of practice,it is used by "lay"actors in some (not all!) everydaysettingsto make sense of themselves,of their activities, of what they share with, and how they differ from, others. It is also used by political entrepreneursto persuade people to understand in themselves,their interests,and their predicaments a certainway, to
persuadecertainpeople that they are (for certainpurposes)"identical" with one another and at the same time differentfrom others, and to organize and justify collective action along certain lines.20In these ways the term "identity"is implicated both in everydaylife and in "identitypolitics"in its variousforms. Everyday"identitytalk"and "identitypolitics"are real and important as phenomena.But the contemporarysalience of "identity" a category of practicedoes not requireits use as a categoryof analysis.Consider an analogy."Nation"is a widely used categoryof social and political practice.Appeals and claims made in the name of putative"nations" - for example, claims to self-determination- have been central to politics for a hundred-and-fifty years. But one does not have to use "nation"as an analytical category to understand and analyze such appeals and claims. One does not have to take a category inherentin thepracticeof nationalism- the realist,reifyingconception of nations as real communities- and make this categorycentralto the theoryof nationalism.21 does one haveto use "race" a categoryof analysis Nor as - which risks taking for grantedthat "race" exists - to understandand analyze social and political practices oriented to the presumed existence of putative"races."22 as one can analyze"nation-talk" Just and nationalist politics without positing the existence of "nations,"or "race-talk" "race"-oriented and politics withoutpositing the existence of "races,"so one can analyze "identity-talk" and identity politics without, as analysts,positing the existenceof "identities." Reification is a social process, not only an intellectual practice. As such, it is central to the politics of "ethnicity," "race,""nation,"and other putative"identities." Analysts of this kind of politics should seek to accountfor this process of reification. should seek to explainthe We and mechanisms through which what has been called the processes or "politicalfiction"of the "nation"- or of the "ethnicgroup,""race," other putative "identity"- can crystallize, at certain moments, as a But we should avoid unintentionally powerful, compelling reality.23 or reinforcingsuch reification by uncritically adopting reproducing categoriesof practiceas categoriesof analysis. The mere use of a term as a categoryof practice,to be sure, does not disqualify it as a category of analysis.24If it did, the vocabularyof social analysiswould be a greatdeal poorer,and more artificial,than it is. What is problematicis not that a particularterm is used, but how it is used. The problem, as Loic Wacquanthas argued with respect to
conflationof social and sociological... lies "race," in the "uncontrolled The [or]folk and analyticunderstandings."25 problemis that "nation," and "identity"are used analyticallya good deal of the time "race," more or less as they are used in practice,in an implicitlyor explicitly reifying manner, in a manner that implies or asserts that "nations," and a "exist" that people "have" "nationality," and "races," "identities" an a "race," "identity." It may be objectedthat this overlooks recent effortsto avoid reifying by "identity" theorizingidentitiesas multiple,fragmented,and fluid.26 has "Essentialism" indeed been vigorouslycriticized, and constructiYet vist gesturesnow accompanymost discussionsof "identity."27 we oftenfindan uneasyamalgamof constructivist languageand essentialist This argumentation.28 is not a matterof intellectualsloppiness.Rather, it reflectsthe dual orientationof many academicidentitariansas both analysts and protagonistsof identity politics. It reflects the tension betweenthe constructivistlanguagethat is requiredby academiccoror rectnessand the foundationalist essentialistmessagethat is required if appeals to "identity"are to be effective in practice.29Nor is the solution to be found in a more consistent constructivism:for it is not as clear why what is routinelycharacterized multiple,fragmented,and at fluid shouldbe conceptualizedas "identity" all. The uses of "identity" What What do scholars mean when they talk about "identity?"30 and explanatorywork is the term supposed to do? This conceptual depends on the context of its use and the theoretical tradition from which the use in question derives.The term is richly - indeed for an analyticalconcept, hopelessly- ambiguous.But one can identifya few key uses: 1. Understoodas a groundor basis of social or politicalaction, "identity" is often opposed to "interest"in an effort to highlight and modes of social and political acconceptualize non-instrumental tion.31With a slightly differentanalytical emphasis, it is used to underscorethe mannerin which action - individualor collective may be governed by particularistic self-understandings rather than by putatively universal self-interest.32 This is probably the most
generaluse of the term; it is frequentlyfound in combinationwith other uses. It involvesthree relatedbut distinct contrastsin ways of
conceptualizing and explaining action. The first is between selfand The understood)self-interest.33 second understanding (narrowly is between particularityand (putative) universality.The third is between two ways of construingsocial location. Many (thoughnot all) strandsof identitariantheorizingsee social and political action as powerfullyshapedby position in social space.34 this they agree In with many (though not all) strandsof universalist,instrumentalist theorizing. But "social location" means something quite different in the two cases. For identitariantheorizing, it means position in
a multidimensional space defined by particularistic categorical at-
tributes(race,ethnicity,gender,sexual orientation).For instrumentalist theorizing, it means position in a universalistically conceived social structure(for example, position in the market, the occupational structure,or the mode of production).35 2. Understood as a specificallycollectivephenomenon,"identity"denotes a fundamentaland consequentialsameness among members of a group or category.This may be understood objectively(as a sameness "in itself") or subjectively(as an experienced, felt, or perceivedsameness).This samenessis expectedto manifestitself in solidarity,in shared dispositions or consciousness, or in collective action. This usage is found especially in the literatureon social on movements;36 gender;37and on race, ethnicity, and nationalism.38In this usage, the line between "identity"as a category of analysisand as a categoryof practiceis often blurred. 3. Understoodas a core aspect of (individualor collective)"selfhood" or as a fundamentalcondition of social being, "identity" invoked is
to point to something allegedly deep, basic, abiding, orfoundational.
This is distinguishedfrom more superficial,accidental,fleeting, or contingent aspects or attributesof the self, and is understood as somethingto be valued,cultivated,supported,recognized,and preserved.39 This usage is characteristicof certain strandsof the psychological (or psychologizing)literature, especiallyas influencedby Erikson,40 though it also appearsin the literatureon race, ethnicity, and nationalism. Here too the practical and analytical uses of are conflated. "identity" frequently 4. Understood as a product of social or political action, "identity"is invoked to highlight the processual,interactivedevelopmentof the kind of collectiveself-understanding, that solidarity,or "groupness" can make collective action possible. In this usage, found in certain
strandsof the "newsocial movement"literature, is "identity" underof social or political action and stood both as a contingent product as a groundor basis of furtheraction.41 5. Understood as the evanescentproduct of multiple and competing discourses,"identity"is invokedto highlightthe unstable,multiple,
fluctuating, andfragmented nature of the contemporary "self." This
usage is found especially in the literatureinfluencedby Foucault, In and post-modernism.42 somewhat different post-structuralism, form, without the post-structuralisttrappings,it is also found in certain strands of the literatureon ethnicity - notably in "situaaccountsof ethnicity.43 tionalist"or "contextualist" Clearly,the term "identity"is made to do a great deal of work. It is modes of action; to focus on selfused to highlightnon-instrumental ratherthan self-interest;to designate sameness across understanding persons or samenessover time; to captureallegedlycore, foundational aspects of selfhood;to deny that such core, foundationalaspects exist; to highlight the processual,interactivedevelopmentof solidarityand and collective self-understanding; to stress the fragmentedquality of of "self," self unstablypatchedtogether a the contemporary experience in throughshards of discourse and contingently"activated" differing contexts. These usages are not simply heterogeneous;they point in sharply differingdirections.To be sure, there are affinitiesbetween certain of them, notably between the second and third, and between the fourth and fifth. And the first usage is generalenough to be compatiblewith all of the others. But there are strongtensions as well. The second and third uses both highlightfundamental sameness - sameness across persons and samenessover time - while the fourthand fifth uses both rejectnotions of fundamentalor abidingsameness. then, bears a multivalent, even contradictorytheoretical "Identity," burden. Do we really need this heavily burdened,deeply ambiguous term?The overwhelming weight of scholarlyopinion suggeststhat we do.44 Even the most sophisticated theorists, while readily acknowlhave argued edging the elusive and problematicnature of "identity," has Criticaldiscussionof "identity" thus that it remainsindispensable. it not to jettison but to save the term by reformulating so as to sought make it immune from cetain objections, especially from the dreaded Thus StuartHall characterizes identityas "an chargeof "essentialism."
idea whichcannot be thoughtin the old way,but withoutwhichcertain key questions cannot be thought at all."45What these key questions are, and why they cannot be addressed without "identity,"remain but Hall'scomment obscurein Hall'ssophisticated opaquediscussion.46 echoes an earlier formulationof Claude Levi-Strauss,characterizing identityis "a sort of virtualcenter(foyervirtuel)to whichwe must refer to explaincertainthings, but withoutit ever havinga real existence."47 Lawrence Grossberg, concerned by the narrowingpreoccupationof culturalstudies with the "theoryand politics of identity," nonetheless assures the reader that he does "not mean to reject the repeatedly and concept of identityor its political importancein certain struggles" that his "project is not to escape the discourse of identity but to relocate it, to rearticulateit."48Alberto Melucci, a leading exponent of identity-oriented analyses of social movements,acknowledgesthat
"the word identity ... is semantically inseparable from the idea of
permanence and is perhaps, for this very reason, ill-suited to the Ill-suitedor not, "idenprocessualanalysisfor which I am arguing."49 continuesto find a centralplace in Melucci'swriting. tity" We are not persuadedthat "identity" indispensable. sketchbelow is We some alternative analytical idioms that can do the necessary work without the attendantconfusion. Sufficeit to say for the moment that if one wants to argue that particularisticself-understandings shape social and political action in a non-instrumentalmanner, one can simplysay so. If one wants to trace the process throughwhich persons sharing some categorical attributecome to share definitionsof their of predicament, understandings theirinterest,and a readinessto undertake collectiveaction, it is best to do so in a mannerthat highlightsthe contingent and variable relationship between mere categories and bounded, solidarygroups. If one wants to examine the meaningsand and significancepeople give to constructs such as "race,""ethnicity," one alreadyhas to thread through conceptual thickets, "nationality," and it is not clear what one gains by aggregatingthem under the flattening rubricof identity.And if one wants to convey the late modern sense of a self being constructedand continuouslyreconstructed of out a varietyof competingdiscourses- and remainingfragile,fluctuating, and fragmented- it is not obvious why the word identitycapturesthe meaningbeing conveyed.
of "Strong"and "weak"understandings "identity" We suggested at the outset that "identity"tends to mean either too much or too little. This point can now be elaborated.Our inventory of the uses of "identity" revealednot only great heterogeneity has but a strong antithesis between positions that highlight fundamentalor abiding sameness and stances that expressly reject notions of basic sameness. The former can be called strong or hard conceptions of identity,the latterweak or soft conceptions. preservethe common-sensemeaning Strongconceptions of "identity" of the term - the emphasison sameness over time or across persons. And they accord well with the way the term is used in most forms of identity politics. But preciselybecause they adopt for analytical purposes a category of everydayexperience and political practice, they entail a series of deeplyproblematic assumptions: 1. Identity is something all people have, or ought to have, or are searchingfor. 2. Identityis somethingall groups (at least groups of a certain kind e.g., ethnic, racial,or national)have, or ought to have. 3. Identityis something people (and groups) can have without being awareof it. In this perspective, identityis somethingto be discovered, and somethingabout which one can be mistaken.The strong conceptionof identitythus replicatesthe Marxianepistemologyof class. 4. Strong notions of collective identityimply strong notions of group boundednessand homogeneity. They imply high degrees of groupness, an "identity"or sameness among group members, a sharp distinctivenessfrom nonmembers,a clear boundarybetweeninside and outside.50 Given the powerful challenges from many quartersto substantialist understandingsof groups and essentialistunderstandingsof identity, one might think we have sketched a "strawman" here. Yet in fact continueto informimportantstrands strongconceptionsof "identity" of the literatureon gender,race,ethnicity,and nationalism.51 Weak understandingsof "identity,"by contrast, break consciously with the everyday meaning of the term. It is such weak or "soft"
11 conceptions that have been heavily favoredin theoreticaldiscussions of "identity"in recent years, as theorists have become increasingly awareof and uncomfortablewith the strongor "hard"implicationsof Yet everydaymeanings of "identity." this new theoretical "common sense"has problemsof its own.We sketchthree of these. The first is what we call "clichedconstructivism." Weak or soft conceptions of identity are routinely packaged with standard qualifiers indicatingthat identityis multiple,unstable,in flux, contingent,fragmented, constructed, negotiated, and so on. These qualifiers have become so familiar - indeed obligatory - in recent years that one reads (and writes) them virtually automatically.They risk becoming mere place-holders,gesturessignalinga stance ratherthan words conveying a meaning. are Second, it is not clear why weak conceptionsof "identity" conceptions of identity.The everydaysense of "identity"stronglysuggests at least some self-samenessover time, some persistence,something that remains identical, the same, while other things are changing.What is the point in using the term "identity" this core meaning is expressly if repudiated? Third, and most important,weak conceptions of identitymay be too weak to do useful theoretical work. In their concern to cleanse the term of its theoretically disreputable"hard"connotations, in their insistencethat identitiesare multiple,malleable,fluid, and so on, soft identitarians leave us with a term so infinitelyelastic as to be incapable of performingseriousanalyticalwork. We are not claiming that the strong and weak versions sketchedhere Nor are jointly exhaust the possible meanings and uses of "identity." we claiming that sophisticatedconstructivisttheorists have not done interestingand important work using "soft"understandingsof identity.We argue, however,that what is interestingand importantin this work often does not depend on the use of "identity" an analytical as category.Considerthreeexamples. MargaretSomers,criticizingscholarlydiscussionsof identityfor focusing on categorical commonality rather than on historically variable relationalembeddedness,proposesto "reconfigur[e] studyof identhe to tity formationthroughthe concept of narrative," "incorporateinto the core conception of identity the categoricallydestabilizingdimen-
sions of time, space, and relationality." Somers makes a compelling
case for the importanceof narrativeto social life and social analysis, and argues persuasivelyfor situating social narrativesin historically specificrelationalsettings.She focuseson the ontologicaldimensionof not on narratives, the way in whichnarratives only representbut, in an importantsense, constitutesocial actors and the social world in which they act.What remainsunclearfrom her accountis why - and in what sense - it is identities that are constituted through narrativesand formedin particularrelationalsettings.Social life is indeedpervasively shouldbe axiomatibut "storied"; it is not clearwhy this "storiedness" and cally linkedto identity.Peopleeverywhere alwaystell stories about themselvesand others, and locate themselveswithin culturallyavailable repertoiresof stories. But in what sense does it follow that such "narrativelocation endows social actors with identities - however multiple, ambiguous,ephemeral,or conflicting they may be?" What does this soft, flexible notion of identity add to the argumentabout The major analyticalwork in Somers'sarticle is done by narrativity? the concept of narrativity, supplementedby that of relationalsetting; the workdone by the concept of identityis much less clear.52
Introducing a collection on Citizenship, Identity, and Social History,
CharlesTilly characterizesidentity as a "blurredbut indispensable" concept and definesit as "anactor'sexperienceof a category,tie, role, network,group or organization,coupled with a public representation often takes the form of a of that experience;the public representation But what is the relationshipbetween this shared story, a narrative." encompassing, open-ended definition and the work Tilly wants the by concept to do? What is gained, analytically, labelingany experience and public representaionof any tie, role, network,etc. as an identity? When it comes to examples,Tilly roundsup the usual suspects:race, gender, class, job, religious affiliation, national origin. But it is not clear what analyticalleverageon these phenomenacan be providedby the exceptionallycapacious, flexible concept of identityhe proposes. Highlighting"identity"in the title of the volume signals an openness to the cultural turn in the social history and historical sociology of citizenship;beyond this, it is not clear what work the concept does. conJustlywell-knownfor fashioningsharplyfocused,"hard-working" cepts,Tillyhere faces the difficultythat confrontsmost social scientists writing about identity today: that of devising a concept "soft"and of flexibleenough to satisfythe requirements relational,constructivist have purchaseon the phenomena social theory,yet robust enough to 53 that cry out for explanation,some of whichare quite"hard."
13 CraigCalhounuses the Chinesestudentmovementof 1989as a vehicle for a subtle and illuminatingdiscussion of the concepts of identity, interest,and collective action. Calhounexplainsstudents'readinessto "knowinglyrisk death"in TiananmenSquareon the night of June 3, 1989in terms of an honor-boundidentityor sense of self, forgedin the course of the movementitself, to which studentsbecame increasingly committed.His account of the shifts in the and, in the end, irrevocably students'lived sense of self duringthe weeks of their protest - as they were drawn, in and through the dynamics of their struggle, from an class-basedself-understanding studentsand as originally"positional," intellectualsto a broader,emotionallychargedidentificationwith national and even universalideals - is a compellingone. Here too, however,the crucialanalyticalwork appearsto be done by a concept other than identity- in this case, that of honor. Honor, Calhounobserves,is in "imperative a way interests are not." But it is also imperativein a way identity,in the weak sense, is not. Calhounsubsumeshonor under the rubricof identity,and presentshis argumentas a generalone about the "constitutionand transformation identity." his fundamental of Yet in this article,it would seem, is not about identityin general, argument but about the way in which a compellingsense of honor can, in extralead circumstances, peopleto undertake actions, ordinary extraordinary lest theircore sense of self be radicallyundermined.54 Identityin this exceptionallystrong sense - as a sense of self that can or action imperatively requireinterest-threatening even life-threatening - has little to do with identity in the weak or soft sense. Calhoun himselfunderscores incommensurability the between"ordinary identity - self-conceptions,the way people reconcileinterestsin everydaylife" and the imperative,honor-drivensense of self that can enable or even require people to be "braveto the point of apparentfoolishness."55 Calhoun provides a powerful characterizationof the latter; but it is not clear what analytical work is done by the former, more general conception of identity.
In his edited volume on Social Theory and the Politics of Identity,
Calhoun works with this more general understanding of identity. "Concernswith individualand collective identity,"he observes,"are It ubiquitous." is certainly true that "[we]know of no people without no languagesor culturesin which some mannerof distinctions names, betweenself and other,we and they are not made." But it is not clear 56 to why this implies the ubiquityof identity,unless we dilute "identity" the point of designatingall practicesinvolvingnaming and self-other
14 distinctions. Calhoun - like Somers and Tilly - goes on to make illuminating arguments on a range of issues concerning claims of commonality and differencein contemporarysocial movements.Yet while such claims are indeed often framedtoday in an idiom of "identity,"it is not clear that adoptingthat idiom for analyticalpurposesis necessaryor even helpful. In other words What alternativeterms might stand in for "identity," doing the theoretical work "identity"is supposed to do without its confusing, contradictoryconnotations?Given the great range and heterogeneityof it the work done by "identity," would be fruitlessto look for a single substitute,for such a term would be as overburdenedas "identity" itself. Our strategy has been rather to unbundle the thick tangle of and to meanings that have accumulatedaround the term "identity," parcel out the work to a number of less congested terms.We sketch threeclustersof termshere.
Identification and categorization
lacks As a processual,activeterm, derivedfroma verb,"identification" It the reifying connotations of "identity."57 invites us to specify the agents that do the identifying.And it does not presupposethat such identifying(evenby powerfulagents,such as the state) will necessarily the resultin the internalsameness,the distinctiveness, boundedgroupseek to achieve. Identificationness that political entrepreneurs may of oneself and of others - is intrinsic to social life; "identity"in the strongsense is not. One may be called upon to identifyoneself - to characterize oneself, to locate oneself vis-a-vis known others, to situateoneself in a narrative, to place oneself in a category - in any numberof differentcontexts. In modern settings, which multiply interactionswith others not perabunsonallyknown, such occasions for identificationare particularly dant. They include innumerablesituations of everydaylife as well as more formal and official contexts. How one identifies oneself - and how one is identifiedby others - may vary greatly from context to are context; self- and other-identification fundamentallysituational and contextual.
One key distinction is between relational and categorical modes of
identification.One may identify oneself (or another person) by position in a relationalweb (a web of kinship,for example,or of friendship, relations).On the otherhand, one patron-clientties, or teacher-student may identifyoneself (or another person) by membershipin a class of persons sharing some categorical attribute (such as race, ethnicity, language, nationality, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). Craig Calhoun has argued that, while relationalmodes of identification remainimportantin many contextseven today,categoricalidentificationhas assumedever greaterimportancein modern settings.58 Anotherbasic distinctionis betweenself-identification the identifiand cation and categorization oneselfby others.59 of Self-identification takes place in dialecticalinterplaywith externalidentification,and the two need not converge.60 Externalidentification itself a variedprocess.In is the ordinaryebb and flow of social life, people identifyand categorize others, just as they identify and categorize themselves. But there is anotherkey type of externalidentification has no counterpart the that in domain of self-identification: formalized,codified, objectifiedsysthe tems of categorization institutions. developedby powerful,authoritative The modern state has been one of the most important agents of identification and categorization in this latter sense. In culturalist extensions of the Weberian sociology of the state, notably those influencedby Bourdieuand Foucault,the state monopolizes, or seeks to monopolize, not only legitimate physical force but also legitimate symbolic force, as Bourdieuputs it. This includes the power to name, to identify,to categorize,to state what is what and who is who.Thereis a burgeoning sociological and historical literatureon such subjects. Some scholars have looked at "identification" quite literally: as the attachmentof definitivemarkersto an individualvia passport, fingerprint, photograph,and signature,and the amassingof such identifying documentsin state repositories. When, why,and with what limitations such systemshavebeen developedturnsout to be no simpleproblem.61 Other scholars emphasize the modern state's efforts to inscribe its subjectsonto a classificatorygrid: to identifyand categorizepeople in relation to gender, religion, property-ownership, ethnicity, literacy, criminality,or sanity.Censuses apportionpeople across these categories, and institutions- from schools to prisons - sort out individualsin relation to them. To Foucauldiansin particular,these individualizing and aggregatingmodes of identificationand classificationare at the core of what defines"governmentality" a modern state.62 in
16 The state is thus a powerful "identifier," because it can create not in "identities" the strong sense - in general,it cannot - but because it has the material and symbolic resources to impose the categories, classificatoryschemes, and modes of social counting and accounting with which bureaucrats, judges, teachers,and doctors must work and to which non-state actors must refer.63 But the state is not the only "identifier" that matters. As CharlesTilly has shown, categorization work" in all kinds of social settings, indoes crucial "organizational cluding families, firms, schools, social movements,and bureaucracies of all kinds.64Even the most powerfulstate does not monopolize the productionand diffusion of identificationsand categories;and those that it does producemay be contested.The literatureon social movements - "old"as well as "new"- is rich in evidenceon how movement ones.65 and leaderschallengeofficialidentifications proposealternative It highlightsleaders'effortsto get membersof putativeconstituencies to identifythemselvesin a certainway,to see themselves- for a certain with one another,to identifyemorange of purposes - as "identical" tionallyas well as cognitivelywith one another.66 the has The social movementliterature valuablyemphasized interactive, mediated processes through which collective solidarities discursively and self-understandings develop. Our reservationsconcern the move fromdiscussingthe workof identification the effortsto build a collecas tive self-understanding to positing"identity" theirnecessaryresult. modes of identification institutionalized By consideringauthoritative, life modesinvolvedin the practicesof everyday with alternative together one and the projectsof social movements, can emphasizethe hardwork as and long strugglesover identification well as the uncertainoutcomes of such struggles.However,if the outcomeis alwayspresumedto be an multiple,contested,and "identity" howeverprovisional,fragmented, - one loses the capacityto make key distinctions. fluid we "Identification," noted above, invites specification of the agents Yet that do the identifying. identificationdoes not requirea specifiable it can be pervasiveand influentialwithout being accom"identifier"; can plishedby discrete,specifiedpersons or institutions.Identification or public narrabe carried more or less anonymouslyby discourses tives.67 Although close analysisof such discoursesor narrativesmight well focus on their instantiationsin particulardiscursiveor narrative utterances,their force may dependnot on any particularinstantiation but on their anonymous,unnoticedpermeationof our ways of thinking and talkingand makingsense of the social world.
17 There is one further meaning of "identification," briefly alluded to above, that is largely independent of the cognitive, characterizing, classificatorymeanings discussed so far. This is the psychodynamic meaning, derived originally from Freud.68While the classificatory meanings involve identifying oneself (or someone else) as someone who fits a certain description or belongs to a certain category, the psychodynamicmeaning involvesidentifyingoneself emotionallywith another person, category,or collectivity.Here again, "identification" calls attentionto complex (and often ambivalent) processes,while the term "identity," designatinga conditionratherthan a process, implies too easy a fit betweenthe individualand the social.
Self-understanding and social location
"Identification" "categorization" active, processualterms, deand are rived from verbs, and calling to mind particularacts of identification and categorization identifiers categorizers. and performed particular by But we need other kinds of termsas well to do the variedworkdone by Recall that one key use of "identity" to conceptualizeand is "identity." action in a non-instrumental,non-mechanialmanner.In this explain sense, the term suggestsways in which individualand collectiveaction can be governed by particularisticunderstandingsof self and social location rather than by putatively universal, structurallydetermined interests."Self-understanding" thereforethe second term we would is It propose as an alternativeto "identity." is a dispositionalterm that one's sense of designateswhat might be called "situatedsubjectivity": who one is, of one's social location, and of how (giventhe firsttwo) one is preparedto act. As a dispositionalterm, it belongs to the realm of
what Pierre Bourdieu has called sens pratique, the practical sense - at
once cognitive and emotional - that persons have of themselvesand their social world.69
The term "self-understanding," is importantto emphasize,does not it of imply a distinctivelymodern or Westernunderstanding the "self"as a homogeneous, bounded, unitary entity. A sense of who one is can take many forms. The social processes throughwhich persons understand and locate themselvesmay in some instancesinvolvethe psychocults.70 analyst'scouch and in others participationin spirit-possession In some settings,people may understandand experiencethemselvesin termsof a grid of intersectingcategories;in others,in termsof a web of connections of differentialproximityand intensity.Hence the impor-
18 tance of seeing self-understanding social locatednessin relationto and each other, and of emphasizingthat both the bounded self and the boundedgroupare culturallyspecificratherthan universalforms. Like the term "identification," lacks the reifying "self-understanding" Yet connotations of "identity." it is not restrictedto situationsof flux and instability.Self-understandings may be variable across time and acrosspersons,but they may be stable.Semantically, "identity" implies of samenessacrosstime or persons;hence the awkwardness continuing to speak of "identity"while repudiatingthe implicationof sameness. "Self-understanding," contrast,has no privilegedsemanticconnecby tion with samenessor difference. and Two closely relatedterms are "self-representation" "self-identification."Havingdiscussed"identification" above, we simplyobservehere that, while the distinction is not sharp,"self-understandings" be may tacit; evenwhen they are formed,as they ordinarilyare, in and through prevailing discourses, they may exist, and inform action, without and themselves being discursively articulated."Self-representation" on the otherhand, suggestat least some degreeof "self-identification," explicitdiscursivearticulation. cannot, of course,do all the workdone by "iden"Self-understanding" We note here threelimitationsof the term. First, it is a subjective, tity." term. As such, it designatesone'sown understanding auto-referential even though of who one is. It cannot captureothers'understandings, external categorizations,identifications,and representationsmay be decisive in determininghow one is regardedand treated by others, indeed in shaping one's own understandingof oneself. At the limit, may be overriddenby overwhelminglycoercive self-understandings externalcategorizations.71 would seem to privilegecognitiveawareSecond,"self-understanding" ness. As a result, it would seem not to capture - or at least not to highlight- the affectiveor cathecticprocessessuggestedby some uses is Yet self-understanding never purely cognitive; it is of "identity." tingedor charged,and the termcan certainlyaccomalwaysaffectively modate this affectivedimension.However,it is true that the emotional are (in dynamics bettercapturedby the term"identification" its psychodynamicmeaning).
19 "self-underFinally, as a term that emphasizes situated subjectivity, does not capture the objectivityclaimed by strong understanding" standingsof identity.Strong,objectivistconceptionsof identitypermit one to distinguish"true"identity(characterized deep, abiding,and as objective) from "mere" self-understanding(superficial, fluctuating, and subjective).If identity is something to be discovered,and something about which one can be mistaken, then one's momentaryselfunderstanding may not correspondto one's abiding, underlyingidenthesenotionsof depth,constancy, tity.Howeveranalytically problematic and objectivitymay be, they do at least providea reason for using the languageof identityratherthan that of self-understanding. Weakconceptions of identityprovideno such reason. It is clear from the constructivistliteraturewhy weak understandingsof identity are weak; but it is not clear why they are conceptions of identity.In this it literature, is the varioussoftpredicatesof identity- constructedness, contingency,instability, multiplicity, fluidity- that are emphasizedand elaborated,while what they are predicatedof- identityitself - is taken for granted and seldom explicated.When identity itself is elucidated, it is often representedas something - a sense of who one is,72a selfconception73- that can be capturedin a straightforward by "selfway This term lacks the allure, the buzz, the theoretical understanding." pretensions of "identity,"but this should count as an asset, not a liability.
Commonality, connectedness, groupness
One particularform of affectivelycharged self-understanding that is often designated by "identity"- especially in discussions of race, religion, ethnicity,nationalism, gender, sexuality,social movements, and other phenomenaconceptualizedas involvingcollectiveidentities - deservesseparatemention here.This is the emotionallyladen sense of belonging to a distinctive, bounded group, involving both a felt solidarityor oneness with fellow group membersand a felt difference from or even antipathyto specifiedoutsiders. The problemis that "identity"is used to designateboth such strongly and groupist, exclusive,affectivelycharged self-understandings much looser, more open self-understandings, involvingsome sense of affinity or affiliation,commonalityor connectednessto particularothers, but lacking a sense of overridingoneness vis-a-vis some constitutive
20 Both the tightly groupist and the more loosely affiliative "other."74 forms of self-understanding as well as the transitionalformsbetween these polar types - are important,but they shape personalexperience and conditionsocial and politicalaction in sharplydifferingways. Rather than stirring all self-understandings based on race, religion, and so on into the greatconceptualmeltingpot of "identity," ethnicity, we would do better to use a more differentiated analyticallanguage. Terms such as commonality,connectedness,and groupnesscould be This is the usefullyemployedherein place of the all-purpose"identity." thirdclusterof termswe propose."Commonality" denotes the sharing of some common attribute,"connectedness" relational ties that the link people. Neithercommonalitynor connectednessalone engenders "groupness" the sense of belongingto a distinctive,bounded,solidary But commonalityand connectednesstogether may indeed do group. so. This was the argumentCharlesTilly put forwardsome time ago, building on Harrison White's idea of the "catnet,"a set of persons comprisingboth a category,sharing some common attribute,and a network.75 Tilly's suggestion that groupnessis a joint product of the and "catness" "netness" categoricalcommonalityand relationalcon- is suggestive.But we would proposetwo emendations. nectedness First, categoricalcommonalityand relationalconnectednessneed to be supplemented a thirdelement,what Max Webercalled a Zusamby a mengehorigkeitsgefihl, feeling of belonging together.Such a feeling may indeed depend in part on the degreesand forms of commonality and connectedness,but it will also depend on other factors such as particularevents, their encoding in compellingpublic narratives,prevailingdiscursiveframes,and so on. Second, relationalconnectedness, or what Tilly calls "netness,"while crucial in facilitatingthe sort of collective action Tilly was interested in, is not always necessary for A "groupness." stronglyboundedsense of groupnessmay rest on categorical commonalityand an associated feeling of belonging together with minimalor no relationalconnectedness.This is typicallythe case for large-scale collectivities such as "nations":when a diffuse selfunderstandingas a memberof a particularnation crystallizesinto a stronglybounded sense of groupness,this is likely to depend not on relational connectedness, but rather on a powerfully imagined and stronglyfelt commonality.76 The point is not, as some partisansof networktheory have suggested, to turn from commonalityto connectedness,from categories to net-
Nor works,from sharedattributesto social relations.77 is it to celebrate and hybridityover belonging and solidarity.The point in sugfluidity gesting this last set of terms is ratherto develop an analytical idiom sensitiveto the multiple forms and degrees of commonalityand connectedness, and to the widely varying ways in which actors (and the culturalidioms, public narratives,and prevailingdiscourseson which they draw)attributemeaningand significanceto them.This will enable us to distinguish instancesof strongly felt binding,vehemently groupness from more loosely structured,weakly constrainingforms of affinity and affiliation.
Three cases: "Identity"and its alternativesin context indicated some limitaHaving surveyedthe work done by "identity," tions and liabilitiesof the term, and suggesteda range of alternatives, we seek now to illustrateour argument- both the criticalclaims about and alternative idioms "identity" the constructive suggestionsregarding - througha considerationof three cases. In each case, we suggest, the identitarianfocus on boundedgroupnesslimits the sociological - and the political - imagination, while alternative analytical idioms can help open up both.
A case from Africanist anthropology: "The"Nuer
African studies has sufferedfrom its version of identitarianthinking, most extremelyin journalisticaccountsthat see Africans'"tribalidentity"as the main cause of violence and of the failureof the nation-state. Academic Africanists have been troubled by this reductivevision of Africa since at least the 1970sand attractedto a version of constructiThe argumentthat vism, well before such an approachhad a name.78 ethnicgroupsare not primordial the productsof history- including but the reifyingof culturaldifferencethroughimposed colonial identifications - became a staple of African studies.Even so, scholarstendedto emphasize boundary-formationrather than boundary crossing, the constitution of groups ratherthan the developmentof networks.79 In this context, it is worth going back to a classic of African ethnology: E. E. Evans-Pritchard's book TheNuer.80 Based on researchin NortheastAfrica in the 1930s,TheNuerdescribes a distinctively relational mode of identification, self-understanding,
A *-A -A
&= * M=* Female A Male = Marriage
=AA / \
Figure 1. A segmentary patrilineage; lines represent descent; marriage partners come from another lineage; children of daughters belong to the lineage of the husband and are not shown; children of sons belong to this lineage and are represented here.
and social location, one that construesthe social world in terms of the degreeand qualityof connectionamong people ratherthan in termsof categories,groups,or boundaries.Social location is definedin the first instance in terms of lineage, consisting of the descendants of one ancestor reckoned through a socially conventional line: patrilineal, via males in the case of Nuer, via females or more rarelyvia double descentsystemsin otherpartsof Africa. Childrenbelong to the lineage of their fathers,and while relationshipswith the mother'skin are not ignored,they are not part of the descentsystem.A segmentarylineage as can be diagrammed in Figure1. Everybodyin this diagramis relatedto everybodyelse, but in different ways and to differentdegrees. One might be tempted to say that the of people markedin circle A constitutea group,with an "identity" A, of from those in circle B, with an "identity" B. The trouble as distinct is with such an interpretation that the very move that distinguishesA and B also shows their relatedness,as one moves back one generation and findsa common ancestor,who may or may not be livingbut whose social location links people in A and B. If someone in set A gets into a conflictwith someonein set B, such a person may well try to invokethe commonalityof "A-ness"to mobilize people against B. But someone genealogicallyolderthan these partiescan invokethe linkingancestors to cool things off.The act of going deeperin a genealogicalchartin the course of social interactionkeeps reemphasizingrelationalvisions of social location at the expenseof categoricalones. One could argue that this patrilineageas a whole constitutesan idenpoint is that tity, distinct from other lineages. But Evans-Pritchard's
23 segmentationrepresentsan entiresocial order,and that lineagesthemselves are relatedto one anotheras male and female lineage members are to each other.Then let us consider marriage. Virtuallyall segmentary societies insist on exogamy;and, in evolutionaryperspective,the prevalence of exogamy may reflect the advantages of cross-lineage connectedness. the male-centered So lineagediagrampresumesanother set of relationships,throughwomen who are born into the lineage of their fathersbut whose sons and daughtersbelong to the lineage they marriedinto. One could then arguethat all the lineagesthat intermarried constitute the "Nuer"as an identity distinct from "Dinka"or any of the other groups in the region. But here recent work in African history offersa more nuancedapproach. The genealogicalconstructionof relationality offers possibilities for extension more supple than the twentieth-century scholar'stendencyto look for a neat boundarybetweeninside and outside. Marriagerelationscould be extendedbeyond the Nuer (both via reciprocalarrangements and coercivelyby forcing captive women into marriage).Strangers- encounteredvia trade,migration,or other forms of movement - could be incorporatedas fictive kin or more loosely linked to a patrilineagevia blood brotherhood.The people of northeasternAfrica migratedextensively,as they tried to find better ecological niches or as lineage segmentsmoved in and out of relations with each other. Tradersstretchedtheir kinship relations over space, formed a variety of relationshipsat the interfaces with agricultural communities,and sometimes developed lingua franca to foster communication across large spatial networks.81 many parts of Africa, In one finds certain organizations- religiousshrines,initiation societies - that cross linguistic and cultural distinctions, offering what Paul Richards calls a "common 'grammar"'of social experience within that regions, for all the culturalvariationand political differentiation contain.82 they The problemwith subsumingthese forms of relationalconnectedness underthe "socialconstructionof identity" that linkingand separating is get called by the same name, making it harderto grasp the processes, of difference causes,and consequences differing patternsof crystallizing and forgingconnections.Africa was far from a paradiseof sociability, but war and peace both involvedflexiblepatternsof affiliationas well as differentiation.
24 One shouldnot assumethat the principlesof a slidingscale of connec"tribal" We tion areuniqueto small-scale society. knowfromthe studyof - with authoritative rulers and larger-scalepolitical organizations of hierarchies command- that kinshipnetworksremainedan elaborate importantprincipleof social life. Africankings assertedtheirauthority relationswith people fromdifferent by developingpatrimonial lineages, a core of support that cross cut lineage affiliations,but they creating also used lineageprinciplesto consolidatetheirown power,cementing marriage alliances and expandingthe size of the royal lineage.83In almost all societies, kinship concepts are symbolic and ideological and resources, while they shapenorms,self-understandings, percepyet 84 do not necessarilyproducekinship"groups." tions of affinity, they To a greater extent than the forms of domination that preceded it, colonial rule attempted a one-to-one mapping of people with some These imposed idenputativelycommon characteristiconto territory. but their effectsdependedon the actual tificationscould be powerful, relationshipsand symbolic systems that colonial officials - and inas digenous culturalentrepreneurs well - had to work with, and on efforts of others to maintain, develop, and articulate countervailing The colonial era differentsorts of affinitiesand self-understandings. did indeedwitnesscomplexstrugglesover identification,but it flattens of our understanding these strugglesto see them as producing"identities."People could live with shadings- and continuedto do so day-byday even when politicallines were drawn. "tribe" of remarkable SharonHutchinson's reanalysis Evans-Pritchard's situation. conflict-ridden takes such an argumentinto a contemporary, Her aim is "to call into questionthe very idea of 'the Nuer'as a unified She points to the fuzziness of the boundaries of ethnic identity."85 people now called Nuer: cultureand history do not follow such lines. And she suggests that Evans-Pritchard's segmentaryschema gives excessive attention to the dominant male elders of the 1930s, and not enough to women, men in less powerfullineages, or youngermen and women. In this analysis,it not only becomes difficultto see Nuerness as an identity,but imperativeto examine with precision how people triedboth to extendand to consolidateconnections.Bringingthe story up to the era of civil warin the southernSudanin the 1990s,Hutchinson refusesto reducethe conflict to one of culturalor religiousdifference between the warringparties and insists instead on a deep analysis of political relationships,struggles for economic resources,and spatial connections.
In much of modern Africa, indeed, some of the most bitter conflicts have taken place within collectivities that are relativelyuniform culturallyand linguistically(Rwanda, Somalia) and between loose economic and social networksbased more on patron-clientrelationsthan ethnic affiliation(Angola, SierraLeone), as well as in situationswhere culturaldistinctionhas been made into a political weapon (Kwa Zulu To in South Africa).86 explainpresentor past conflict in terms of how risks providinga prepeople construct and fight for their "identities" fabricated, presentist, teleological explanation that diverts attention from questionssuch as those addressedby Hutchinson.
East European nationalism
We have arguedthat the languageof identity,with its connotations of boundedness,groupness,and sameness, is conspicuouslyill suited to the analysis of segmentarylineage societies - or of present-dayconflicts in Africa. One might accept this point yet arguethat identitarian languageis well suitedto the analysisof other social settings,including our own, wherepublicand private"identitytalk"is widelycurrent.But we are not arguingonly that the concept of identitydoes not "travel" well, that it cannot be universallyappliedto all social settings.Wewant to make a strongerargument:that "identity"is neither necessarynor helpful as a category of analysis even where it is widely used as a category of practice.To this end, we briefly consider East European nationalismand identitypolitics in the United States. Historical and social scientific writing on nationalism in Eastern Europe - to a much greaterextent than writing on social movements or ethnicity in North America - has been characterizedby relatively of strong or hard understandings group identity.Many commentators have seen the post-communistresurgenceof ethnic nationalismin the regionas springingfrom robustand deeplyrootednationalidentitiesfrom identities strong and resilient enough to have surviveddecades of repressionby ruthlesslyantinationalcommunist regimes. But this view "return-of-the-repressed" is problematic.87 Considerthe formerSoviet Union.To see nationalconflictsas struggles to validateand expressidentitiesthathad somehowsurvived regime's the attemptsto crush them is unwarranted. Although antinationalist,and of coursebrutallyrepressive all kinds of ways, the Soviet regimewas in
anything but anti-national.88 Far from ruthlessly suppressing nation-
26 hood, the regime went to unprecedentedlengths in institutionalizing and codifying it. It carved up Soviet territory into more than fifty each "belonging"to a putativelyautonomous national "homelands," particularethnonationalgroup;and it assigned each citizen an ethnic which was ascribed at birth on the basis of descent, "nationality," in personal identity documents, recorded in bureaucratic registered and encounters, used to controlaccess to highereducationand employor In doing so, the regimewas not simplyrecognizing ratifyinga ment. both persons and pre-existingstate of affairs;it was newlyconstituting of In as national.89 this context, strongunderstandings national places as deeply rooted in the pre-communisthistory of the region, identity frozen or repressedby a ruthlesslyantinationalregime,and returning with the collapse of communism are at best anachronistic,at worst of simplyscholarlyrationalizations nationalistrhetoric. What about weak, constructivist understandingsof identity? Constructivists might concede the importance of the Soviet system of and institutionalized multinationality, interpretthis as the institutional means through which national identities were constructed. But why that shouldwe assumeit is "identity" is constructedin this fashion?To or a systemof identification categorizaassumethat it is risksconflating tionwith its presumedresult,identity. groupdenominations Categorical - howeverauthoritative, institutionalized cannot howeverpervasively or serveas indicatorsof real "groups" robust"identities." Considerfor example the case of "Russians"in Ukraine. At the time of the 1989 census, some 11.4million residentsof Ukraine identified their "nationality"as Russian. But the precision suggested by this census datum,even when roundedto the nearesthundredthousand,is as and "Ukrainian," entirelyspurious.The very categories"Russian" designators of putativelydistinct ethnoculturalnationalities, or distinct "identities,"are deeply problematicin the Ukrainian context, have been high, and where millions of where rates of intermarriage nominal Ukrainiansspeak only or primarilyRussian. One should be or skepticalof the illusion of "identity" boundedgroupnesscreatedby the census, with its exhaustiveand mutuallyexclusivecategories.One in can imaginecircumstances which"groupness" might emergeamong nominal Russiansin Ukraine, but such groupnesscannot be taken as given.90 and The formalinstitutionalization codificationof ethnic and national categoriesimpliesnothingaboutthe depth,resonance,orpowerof such
27 categories in the lived experience of the persons so categorized. A strongly institutionalizedethnonational classificatory system makes certaincategoriesreadilyand legitimatelyavailablefor the representation of social reality,the framingof politicalclaims, and the organization of political action.This is itself a fact of greatsignificance,and the breakupof the Soviet Union cannot be understoodwithout reference to it. But it does not entail that these categorieswill have a significant role in framing perception, orienting action, or shaping self-understandingin everydaylife - a role that is impliedby even constructivist accountsof "identity." The extentto which officialcategorizationsshape self-understandings, the extent to which the population-categories constitutedby states or political entrepreneursapproximatereal "groups"- these are open questions that can only be addressed empirically.The language of "identity"is more likely to hinder than to help the posing of such questions, for it blurs what needs to be kept distinct:externalcategorization and self-understanding, objectivecommonalityand subjective groupness. Considerone final, non-Soviet example.The boundarybetween Hunis garians and Romaniansin Transylvania certainlysharperthan that between Russians and Ukrainians in Ukraine. Here too, however, group boundariesare considerablymore porous and ambiguousthan is widely assumed.The language of both politics and everydaylife, to be sure,is rigorouslycategorical,dividingthe populationinto mutually exclusiveethnonational categories,and makingno allowancefor mixed or ambiguousforms. But this categoricalcode, importantthough it is as a constituentelementof social relations, should not be taken for a faithful descriptionof them. Reinforcedby identitarianentrepreneurs on both sides, the categoricalcode obscuresas much as it revealsabout self-understandings, maskingthe fluidityand ambiguitythat arise from mixed marriages,from bilingualism,from migration,from Hungarian childrenattendingRomanian-language schools, from intergenerational assimilation(in both directions),and - perhapsmost important- from sheerindifference the claims of ethnocultural to nationality. Even in its constructivistguise, the languageof "identity" disposes us to think in terms of bounded groupness.It does so because even constructivist thinking on identity takes the existence of identity as axio-
matic. Identityis alwaysalready"there," somethingthat individuals as and groups"have," even if the content of particularidentities,and the
28 boundariesthat markgroupsoff from one another,are conceptualized as always in flux. Even constructivistlanguagetends thereforeto obto jectify "identity," treat it as a "thing,"albeit a malleable one, that and people "have,""forge," "construct." This tendencyto objectify"identity" deprivesus of analyticalleverage. and It makes it more difficultfor us to treat "groupness" "boundedness" as emergentpropertiesof particularstructuralor conjunctural settings ratherthan as always alreadythere in some form. The point needs to be emphasizedtoday more than ever, for the unreflectively groupist language that prevails in everydaylife, journalism, politics, and much social research as well - the habit of speaking without and for qualificationof "Albanians" "Serbs," example,as if they were homogeneous"groups" not only weakens sharplybounded,internally social analysisbut constrictspoliticalpossibilitiesin the region.
Identity claims and the enduring dilemmas of "race"in the United States
The languageof identityhas been particularly powerfulin the United States in recent decades. It has been prominentboth as an idiom of analysisin the social sciencesand humanitiesand as an idiom in which to articulateexperience,mobilize loyalty,and formulatesymbolicand materialclaims in everydaysocial and politicalpractice. The pathos and resonance of identity claims in the contemporary United Stateshave many sources,but one of the most profoundis that central problem of American history - the importation of enslaved Africans,the persistenceof racialoppression,and the rangeof AfricanAmericanresponsesto it. The African-American experienceof "race" has as both imposedcategorizationand self-identification been important not only in its own terms,but from the late 1960son as a template for identity claims of all sorts, including those based on gender and 91 or sexualorientationas well as those based on "ethnicity" "race." In response to the cascading identitarian claims of the last three decades, public discourse, political argument, and scholarship in nearly every field of the social sciences and humanities have been transformed.There is much that is valuable in this process. History tell textbooksand prevailingpublicnarratives a much richerand more those of a generation ago. Specious forms of inclusive story than who alwaysappears universalism- the Marxistcategoryof "worker"
29 in the guise of a male, the liberalcategoryof "citizen" who turns out to be white- havebeenpowerfully identitarian exposed."First-generation"
claims themselves - and scholarly literatures informed by them - have
been criticizedfor theirblindnessto cross-cuttingparticularities: African-Americanmovements for acting as if African-Americanwomen did not have gender-specific concerns, feministsfor focusingon white, middle-classwomen. Constructivistargumentshave had a particularinfluence in Americanist circles,allowingscholarsto stressthe contemporary importance of imposed identifications and the self-understandingsthat have evolvedin dialecticalinterplaywith them, while emphasizingthat such self- and other-identified are "groups" not primordialbut historically The treatmentof race in the historiographyof the United produced. States is an excellentexample.92 Even before"socialconstruction" became a buzz-word,scholarswere showing that far from being a given dimensionof America'spast, race as a political categoryoriginatedin the same moment as America's republican and populist impulses. Edmund Morgan argued that in early eighteenth-centuryVirginia, white indentured servants and black slaves shared a subordination that was not sharply differentiated;they sometimes acted together. It was when Virginian planter elites started to mobilize against the Britishthat they needed to drawa sharpboundarybetweenthe politically included and the excluded, and the fact that black slaves were more numerous and replaceable as laborers and less plausible as political supportersled to a markingof distinction,which poor whites could in turn use to make claims.93 From such an opening, historians have chartedseveralkey moments of redefinitionof racial boundaries in the United States - and severalpoints at which other sorts of ties showed the possibilityof giving rise to other kinds of political affiliation. Whiteness and blacknesswere both historicallycreated and historicallyvariablecategories.Comparative historians,meanwhile,have shown that the constructionof race can take still more varied forms, showing that many people who were "black"under North American classificatorysystemswould havebeen somethingelse in otherparts of the Americas.94 Americanhistory thus revealsthe powerof imposedidentification,but it also reveals the complexity of the self-understandingsof people definedby circumstancesthey did not control.Pre-CivilWarcollective self-definitionssituatedblack Americans in particularways in regard to Africa - often seeing an African (or an "Ethiopian")origin as
placingthem close to the heartlandsof Christiancivilization.Yet early back-to-Africamovements often treated Africa as a cultural tabula rasa or as a fallen civilization to be redeemedby African-American Christians.95 Assertingoneself as a diasporic"people"did not necessarily imply claiming culturalcommonality - the two concepts have been in tension with each other ever since. One can write the history of African-Americanself-understanding the "rise"over time of a as black nationality,or one can explore the interplayof such a sense of activiststo articulate collectivitywith the effortsof African-American differentkinds of political ideologies and to develop connectionswith other radicals.The most importantpoint is to consider the range of possibilitiesand the seriousnesswith whichthey weredebated. It is not the historical analysis of social construction as such that is but problematic, the presumptionsabout what it is that is constructed. It is "whiteness" "race"that is taken as the typical object of conor not other, looser forms of affinityand commonality.Setting struction, as out to write about "identifications" they emerge, crystallize, and fade away in particularsocial and political circumstancesmay well inspirea ratherdifferenthistory than setting out to write of an "identity,"whichlinks past, present,and futurein a single word. of Cosmopolitaninterpretations Americanhistoryhave been criticized for taking the pain out of the distinct ways in which that history has been experienced:above all the pain of enslavementand discriminaa tion, and of struggleagainstenslavementand discrimination, history that marks African Americans in ways that white Americans do not of Here is where calls for the understanding the particularity share.96 of experienceresonatepowerfully,but it is also here that the dangers of flatteningthose histories into a static and singular "identity"are serious.There may be gains as well as losses in such a flattening,as thoughtfulparticipantsin debates over the politics of race have made clear.97But to subsumefurtherunder the generic category of "idenof tity" the historical experiences and allegedly common "cultures" as other "groups" disparateas women and the elderly,Native Americans and gay men, poor people and the disabledis not in any obvious way more respectfulof the pain of particularhistories than are the universalistrhetoricsof justice or human rights. And the assignment of individuals to such "identities"leaves many people - who have experienced the uneven trajectories of ancestry and the variety of innovationsand adaptationsthat constituteculture- caught between a hard identity that doesn't quite fit and a soft rhetoric of hybridity,
nor and multiplicity, fluiditythat offersneitherunderstanding solace.98 of The questionremainswhetherwe can addressthe complexity history - includingthe changingways in which externalcategorizationshave both stigmatizedand humiliatedpeople and given them an enabling and empowering sense of collective selfhood - in more supple and differentiated language.If the real contributionof constructivistsocial - that affinities, categories, and subjectivitiesdevelop and analysis change over time - is to be taken seriously, and not reduced to a presentist,teleological account of the construction of currentlyexistthen bounded groupnessmust be understoodas a coning "groups," not tingent,emergentproperty, an axiomaticgiven. Representing contemporaryAmericansociety poses a similarproblem - avoidingflat, reductiveaccountsof the social worldas a multichrome mosaic of monochrome identitygroups.This conceptually impoverished in whichthe "intersection" race,class, gender, identitarian of sociology, sexualorientation,and perhapsone or two othercategoriesgeneratesa set of all-purposeconceptualboxes, has become powerfulin American academiain the 1990s- not only in the social sciences,culturalstudies, and ethnic studies, but also in literatureand political philosophy.In the remainderof this section, we shift our angle of vision and consider the implicationsof the use of this identitariansociology in the latter domain. "Amoralphilosophy," wroteAlisdairMacIntyre, a "presupposes sociology";99 the same holds afortiori of political theory. The problem with
much contemporarypolitical theory is that it is built on questionable sociology - indeed preciselyon the group-centeredrepresentationof the social world just mentioned.We are not taking the side of "unihere. Rather, we are suggestingthat versality"against "particularity" the identitarianlanguage and groupist social ontology that informs much contemporarypolitical theory occludes the problematicnature of "groupness"itself and forecloses other ways of conceptualizing particularaffiliationsand affinities. There is a considerableliteraturenow that is critical of the idea of universalcitizenship.Iris MarionYoung,one of the most influentialof such critics, proposes instead an ideal of group-differentiated citizenand group rights.The notion of an ship, built on group representation "impartial general perspective,"she argues, "is a myth." Different social groupshave differentneeds, cultures,histories,experiences,and perceptions of social relations."Citizenshipshould not seek to tran-
32 but scend such differences, shouldrecognizeand acknowledgethem as
What sort of differencesshould be ratifiedwith special representation and rights?The differencesin question are those associatedwith "soidentitiesand waysof life,"and definedas "comprehensive cial groups," from mere aggregateson the one hand - arbitraryclasdistinguished sificationsof persons accordingto some attribute- and from volunwould tary associationson the other.Specialrightsand representation be accordednot to all social groups, but to those who sufferfrom at least one of five forms of oppression. In contemporaryAmerican society, this means "women, blacks, Native Americans, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans and other Spanish-speaking Americans,Asian Americans, gay men, lesbians, working-classpeople, old people, and mentally and physicallydisabledpeople."101 of What constitutes the "groupness" these "groups?"What makes them groupsratherthan categoriesaroundwhich self- and other-identificationsmay but certainlydo not necessarilyor always crystallize? This is not addressedby Young.She assumesthat distinctivehistories, experiences,and social location endow these "groups"with different "capacities,needs, culture, and cognitive styles"and with "distinctive of understandings all aspects of the societyand uniqueperspectiveson 102 is social issues." Social and culturalheterogeneity construedhere as a juxtapositionof internallyhomogeneous,externallybounded blocs. The "principlesof unity" that Young repudiates at the level of the polity as a whole - becausethey "hidedifference" are reintroduced, at and continueto hide difference, the level of the constituent"groups." or At stake in argumentsabout group-differentiated "multicultural" citizenshipare importantissues that havebeen long debatedoutsideas well as inside the academy,all havingto do in one way or anotherwith the relative weight and merits of universalist and particularist claims.103 Sociological analysiscannot and should not seek to resolve this robust debate, but it can seek to shore up its often shaky sociological foundations.It can offera richervocabularyfor conceptualizand Movingbeyond ing social and culturalheterogeneity particularity. identitarianlanguageopens up possibilitiesfor specifyingother kinds of connectedness,other idioms of identification,other styles of selfother ways of reckoningsocial location.To paraphrase understanding, said long ago aboutclass, culturalstruggleis a Adam Przeworsky what Actistruggle about culturebefore it is a struggle among cultures.'04
33 vists of identitypolitics deploy the languageof boundedgroupnessnot because it reflects social reality, but precisely because groupness is ambiguousand contested.Their groupistrhetorichas a performative, constitutive whenit is successful,to the making dimension,contributing, of the groupsit invokes.105 Here we have a gap betweennormativeargumentsand activist idioms that take bounded groupness as axiomatic and historical and sociological analyses that emphasize contingency,fluidity,and variability. At one level thereis a real-lifedilemma:preserving culturaldistinctiveness depends at least in part on maintainingbounded groupnessand hence on policing the "exitoption,"and accusationsof "passing" and of betrayingone's roots serve as modes of discipline.106 Criticsof such policing, however, would argue that a liberal polity should protect individualsfrom the oppressivenessof social groups as well as that of the state. At the level of social analysis,though, the dilemma is not a necessaryone. We are not faced with a starkchoice between a universalist, individualist analyticalidiom and an identitarian, groupistidiom. Framingthe options in this way misses the varietyof forms (otherthan bounded groups) that affinity,commonality,and connectedness can take - hence our emphasis on the need for a more supplevocabulary. We are not arguing for any specific stance on the politics of cultural distinctionand individualchoice, but ratherfor a vocabularyof social analysis that helps open up and illuminatethe range of options. The politics of group "coalition"that is celebratedby Young and others, for example, certainly has its place, but the groupist sociology that underliesthis particularform of coalition politics - with its assumption that bounded groups are the basic building blocks of political alliances - constrictsthe political imagination.107 None of this belies the importanceof currentdebatesover "universalistic" and "particularistic" conceptions of social justice. Our point is that the identitarianfocus on bounded groupness does not help in posing these questions;the debate is in some respects based on misconceptions on both sides. We need not in fact choose between an American history flattened into the experiences and "cultures"of bounded groups and one equally flattened into a single "national" story. Reducing the heterogeneityof American society and history to a multichromemosaic of monochromeidentitygroups hinders rather than helps the work of understandingthe past and pursuing social justice in the present.
34 Conclusion:Particularityand the politics of "identity" We have not made an argumentabout identity politics. Nonetheless, the argumentdoes havepoliticalas well as intellectualimplications.In some circles, these will be thought to be regressive,to underminethe basis for making particularisticclaims. That is neither our intention nor a valid inferencefromwhat we havewritten. To persuadepeople that they are one; that they comprise a bounded, do distinctive,solidarygroup;that theirinternaldifferences not matter, at least for the purpose at hand - this is a normal and necessarypart as of politics, and not only of what is ordinarilycharacterized "identity politics."It is not all of politics; and we do indeed have reservations about the way in which the routine recourse to identitarianframing may foreclose other equally important ways of framing political as claims.But we do not seekto depriveanyoneof "identity" a political or to underminethe legitimacy of making political appeals in tool, identitarianterms. as Our argumenthas focused, rather,on the use of "identity" an anathe article, we have asked what work the lyticalconcept. Throughout concept is supposedto do, and how well it does it. We have arguedthat the concept is deployedto do a greatdeal of analyticalwork - much of it legitimateand important."Identity," however,is ill suitedto perform this work, for it is riddled with ambiguity,riven with contradictory meanings, and encumberedby reifyingconnotations. Qualifyingthe noun with strings of adjectives- specifying that identity is multiple, fluid, constantlyre-negotiated,and so on - does not solve the Orwellian problem of entrapmentin a word. It yields little more than a a suggestiveoxymoron- a multiplesingularity, fluid crystallizationbut still begs the question of why one should use the same term to designate all this and more. Alternative analytical idioms, we have argued,can do the necessaryworkwithoutthe attendantconfusion. At issue here is not the legitimacy or importance of particularistic claims, but how best to conceptualizethem. People everywhereand stories, trajectories, always have particularties, self-understandings, histories, predicaments.And these inform the sorts of claims they make. To subsume such pervasiveparticularityunder the flat, undifferentiatedrubricof "identity," however,does nearlyas muchviolence to its unrulyand multifariousforms as would an attemptto subsumeit under"universalist" categoriessuch as "interest."
Construing particularityin identitarianterms, moreover, constricts the political as well as the analyticalimagination.It points away from a range of possibilitiesfor political action other than those rooted in putatively shared identity - and not only those that are praised or Identitarian damnedas "universalist." politicaladvocates,for example, construe political cooperation in terms of the building of coalitions betweenboundedidentitygroups.This is one mode of politicalcooperation, but not the only one. KathrynSikkinkand MargaretKeck, for example,have drawnattention to the importance of "transnationalissue networks,"from the antislaverymovementof the early nineteenthcenturyto international campaignsabout human rights, ecology, and women'srights in recent years. Such networksnecessarilycross culturalas well as state boundaries and link particularplaces and particularisticclaims to wider concerns. To take one instance, the antiapartheidmovementbrought togetherSouthAfricanpoliticalorganizationsthat werethemselvesfar from united - some sharing "universalist"ideologies, some calling themselves"Africanist," some assertinga quitelocal, culturallydefined - with internationalchurchgroups,labor unions, pan-Afri"identity" can movementsfor racial solidarity,human rights groups, and so on. Particulargroupsmoved in and out of cooperativearrangements within an overallnetwork;conflict among opponentsof the apartheidstate was sometimesbitter,even deadly.As the actorsin the networkshifted, the issues at stake were reframed.At certain moments, for example, issues amenableto internationalmobilizationwere highlighted,while others - of greatconcernto some would-beparticipants- weremarginalized.108
Our point is not to celebrate such networks over more exclusively identitariansocial movements or group-basedclaims. Networks are no more intrinsically virtuous than identitarian movements and groups are intrinsicallysuspect. Politics - in SouthernAfrica or elsewhere - is hardly a confrontationof good universalistsor good networks versus bad tribalists. Much havoc has been done by flexible networks built on clientage and focused on pillage and smuggling; such networks have sometimes been linked to "principled" political organizations;and they have often been connected to arms and illegal merchandisebrokers in Europe, Asia, and North America. Multifariousparticularities in play,and one needs to distinguishbetween are situations where they cohere around particularcultural symbols and situations where they are flexible, pragmatic, readily extendable. It
36 does not contributeto precisionof analysisto use the same words for the extremesof reificationand fluidity,and everythingin between. To criticize the use of "identity"in social analysis is not to blind It ourselves to particularity. is rather to conceive of the claims and possibilitiesthat arise from particularaffinitiesand affiliations,from particularcommonalitiesand connections,fromparticularstories and from particularproblemsand predicamentsin a self-understandings, more differentiated manner.Social analysishas become massively,and in sensitizedto particularity recentdecades;and the literature durably, on identityhas contributedvaluablyto this enterprise.It is time now to go beyond "identity" not in the name of an imagineduniversalism, but in the name of the conceptual clarity requiredfor social analysis alike. and politicalunderstanding
Acknowledgments Our thanks to Zsuzsa Berend, John Bowen, Jane Burbank, Margit PeterStamatov, Jon Feischmidt, Fox, MaraLoveman,JitkaMaleckovta, and the Theoryand Society Editors Loic Wacquant,RogerWaldinger, for valuable comments and suggestions on earlier drafts.Thanks as well to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, wherethis articlewas conceivedduringa lunchtimeconversation,and to participantsin the Sociology Department Colloquium at UCLA and in the ComparativeStudyof Social Transformationfaculty seminar at the Universityof Michigan,whereearlierversions of the article were presented.And a final word of thanks to our graduatestudents, who have put up in good spirit - but not necessarilyin agreementwith our queryingtheiruse of a seeminglyindispensableconcept.
1. From "Politics and the English Language," in George Orwell, A Collection of Essays (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1953), 169-170. 2. For a tempered critique of identity politics, see Todd Gitlin, The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture Wars (New York: Henry Holt, 1995), and for a sophisticated defense, Robin D.G. Kelley, Yo' Mama's Disfunktional!. Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America (Boston: Beacon, 1997). For a suggestion that the high noon of identity politics may have passed, see Ross Posnock, "Before and After Identity Politics," Raritan 15 (Summer 1995): 95-115; and David A. Hollinger, "Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism, and the United
States," in Noah Pickus, editor, Immigration and Citizenship in the Twenty-first
1998). (Lanham,MD: RowmanLittlefield, Century 3. Avrum Stroll, "Identity," Encyclopediaof Philosophy(New York: MacMillan, 1967), Vol. IV, p. 121-124. For a contemporaryphilosophical treatment, see
Bartholomaeus Boehm, Identitaet und Identifikation: Zur Persistenz physikalischer
PeterLang,1989).On the historyandvicissitudes Gegenstaende (Frankfurth/Main: of "identity" cognate terms, see W.J.M. Mackenzie,PoliticalIdentity(New and York:St. Martin's1978),19-27, and John D. Ely,"Community the Politicsof and Towardthe Genealogyof a Nation-StateConcept,"Stanford Humanities Identity:
Review 5/2 (1997), 76ff.
4. See PhilipGleason,"Identifying A Journal Identity: Semantic History," ofAmerican
History 69/4 (March 1983): 910-931. The 1930s Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
(New York:Macmillan:1930-1935)containsno entryon identity,but it does have one on "identification" largely focused on fingerprinting and other modes of judicial markingof individuals(ThorsteinSellin,Vol. 7, pp. 573-575).The 1968
International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (New York: Macmillan),
contains an article on "identification,political" by William Buchanan(Vol. 7, with a group"- including pp. 57-61), which focuses on a "person'sidentification - and anotheron "identity, class, party,religion psychosocial," Erik Erikson by "roleintegration his group." in (ibid.,61-65), whichfocuseson the individual's 5. Gleason, "Identifying of 914ff;for the appropriation Erikson'swork in Identity," politicalscience,see Mackenzie,PoliticalIdentity. 6. Gleason,"Identifying 915-918. Identity,"
7. Anselm Strauss, Mirrors and Masks. The Search for an Identity (Glencoe, Ill.: Free
8. Erving Goffman, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (Engle-
wood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall,1963); Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann,
The Social Construction of Reality (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966); Peter
Berger,BrigitteBerger,and HansfriedKellner,The HomelessMind:Modernizationand Consciousness "Modern (New York:RandomHouse, 1973);PeterBerger,
Identity: Crisis and Continuity," in The Cultural Drama: Modern Identities and
Social Ferment,ed. Wilton S. Dillon (Washington: SmithsonianInstitutionPress, 1974). 9. As Philip Gleason has pointed out, the popularizationof the term began well before the turbulenceof the mid- and late 1960s. Gleason attributesthis initial popularizationto the mid-centuryprestigeand cognitive authorityof the social sciences, the wartimeand postwar vogue of national characterstudies, and the the of postwarcritiqueof mass society,which newly problematized "relationship the individualto society"("Identifying 922ff). Identity," 10. Eriksoncharacterized identityas "a process'located'in the coreof the individual
and yet also in the core of his communal culture, a process which establishes ... the
and Crisis [New York:Norton, identityof those two identities"(Identity.Youth late 1968],22, italics in the original).Althoughthis is a relatively formulation,the link was alreadyestablishedin Erikson'simmediately postwarwritings. 11. See for exampleCraigCalhoun,"New Social Movementsof the EarlyNineteenth
Century," Social Science History 17/3 (1993): 385-427.
12. Mackenzie, Political Identity, 11, reporting a seminar paper of 1974; Coles is 913. Gleason notes that the problem quoted in Gleason, "IdentifyingIdentity," was remarkedeven earlier:"by the late 1960s the terminologicalsituation had gotten completelyout of hand"(ibid., 915).Eriksonhimselflamentedthe "indis-
criminate"use of "identity" and "identitycrisis" in Identity. Youth and Crisis, publishedin 1968(p. 16). 13. Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "Editors'Introduction: in MultiplyingIdentities," Identities,ed. Appiah and Gates (Chicago:University of ChicagoPress,1995),1. 14. Between1990 and 1997alone, for example,the numberof journal articlesin the in or CurrentContentsdatabasewith "identity" "identities" the title more than doubled,while the total numberof articlesincreasedby about 20 percent.James Fearonfounda similarincreasein the numberof dissertationabstracts containing even after controllingfor the increasein the total numberof disserta"identity," tions abstracted. "WhatIs Identity(As We Now Use theWord)?" See unpublished p. manuscript, Dept. of PoliticalScience,StanfordUniversity, 1. 15. One might also speakof a narrower "'identitycrisis'crisis."Coinedand popularized by Erikson, and appliedto social and political collectivitiesby LucianPye crisis"took off in the 1960s.(For Erikson'sown and others,the notion of "identity reflectionson the origins and vicissitudesof the expression,see the retrospective and Prologueto Identity:Youth Crisis,pp. 16ff.)Criseshavebecome (oxymoronically) chronic; and putative crises of identity have proliferatedto the point of destroyingwhatevermeaningthe concept may once have had. Already in 1968, fashion Eriksoncould lamentthat the expressionwas being used in a "ritualized" crises"were samplingrevealedthat "identity (ibid.,p. 16).A recentbibliographical predicatednot only of the usual suspects - above all ethnic, racial, national, gender,and sexual identities- but also of such heterogeneoussubjectsas fifthhistologists,the Frenchmedicalcorpsduring profession, centuryGaul, the forestry the First WorldWar,the internet,the Sonowal Kacharis,technicaleducationin India, early childhood special education, French hospital nurses, kindergarten teachers,TV, sociology, Japan'sconsumergroups, the EuropeanSpace Agency, CathayPacificAirways, Japan'sMITI, the NationalAssociationof Broadcasting, the Clorox,Chevrolet, lawyers,the San Francisco Presbyterians, CIA, universities, Scottish literature, RedevelopmentAgency, black theology, eighteenth-century fossils. and, our favorite,dermopterous
16. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, which appeared in 1994, "explores
the relationshipof racial, ethnic and national identities and power hierarchies withinnationaland global arenas... [It]respondsto the paradoxof our time: the movementsof populationsproduce growthof a globaleconomyand transnational identities"(Stateor perpetuatedistinctiveculturalpracticesand differentiated Journal ment of "aimsand scope"printedon insidefrontcover).SocialIdentities:
for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, whose first issue appeared in 1995, is
concernedwith "the formationsof, and transformations socially significant in, identities,their attendantforms of materialexclusionand power, as well as the (statement politicaland culturalpossibilitiesopen[ed]up by these identifications" printedon insidefrontcover). 40 17. ZygmuntBauman, "Soil,Blood, and Identity," SociologicalReview (1992):675et Elementspourune reflexion "L'identite la representation: 701;PierreBourdieu,
critique sur l'idee de r&gion,"Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 35 (1980):
63-72; Fernand Braudel,The Identityof France,trans. Sian Reynolds, 2 Vols. (New York:Harper& Row, 1988-1990);Craig Calhoun,"SocialTheoryand the
Politics of Identity," in Calhoun, editor, Social Theory and the Politics of Identity
Mass:Blackwell,1994);S. N. Eisenstadtand Bern(Oxford,U.K. and Cambridge, de Archives hard Giesen, "The Constructionof CollectiveIdentity," europeennes
sociologie 36, no. 1 (1995): 72-102; Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-identity. Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (Cambridge: Polity Press, in association with Blackwell, Oxford, 1991); Jiirgen Habermas, Staatsbiirgerschaft und rationale Identitdt: Uberlegungen zur europaischen Zukunft (St. Gallen: Erker, 1991);
David Laitin, Identity in Formation(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998);
Claude Levi-Strauss, editor, L'identite: Seminaire interdisciplinare (Paris: Presses
de Universitaires France,1977);Paul Ricoeur, Oneselfas Another(Chicago:Uniand versityof ChicagoPress,1992);AmartyaSen,"Goals,Commitment, Identity,"
Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 2 (Fall 1985): 341-355; Margaret
Somers,"TheNarrativeConstitutionof Identity:A Relationaland NetworkAp"ThePoliticsof proach,"Theoryand Society 23 (1994):605-649; CharlesTaylor,
Recognition," in Multiculturalism and "The Politics of Recognition: An Essay",
(Princeton:PrincetonUniversityPress, 1992);25-74; CharlesTilly,"Citizenship, Identity and Social History,"in Tilly, editor, Citizenship,Identity and Social and History(Cambridge New York:Cambridge UniversityPress, 1996);Harrison
White, Identity and Control: A Structural Theory of Social Action (Princeton, N.J.:
PrincetonUniversity Press,1992). 18. On experience-near experience-distant and concepts- the termsare derivedfrom Heinz Kohut - see CliffordGeertz,"Fromthe Native'sPoint of View,"in Local (New York: Basic Books, 1983),57. The basic contrast goes back at Knowledge least to Durkheim's Rulesof SociologicalMethod,whichcriticizedthe sociological use of "pre-notions" lay conceptsthat havebeen "created experienceand for or by
it." Emile Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method, trans. S. Solovay and J.
Mueller,ed. G. E. G. Catlin,8th ed. (New York:FreePress,1964),14-46. 19. As LoicWacquant notes of race,the "continual barterbetweenfolk and analytical of notions, the uncontrolledconflationof social and sociologicalunderstandings 'race"' is "intrinsicto the category. From its inception, the collective fiction labeled'race'... has alwaysmixed science with common sense and tradedon the complicity between them" ("For an Analytic of Racial Domination,"Political
Power and Social Theory 11 : 222-223).
20. On "ethnic see Lal, identity entrepreneurs," Barbara "Ethnic Identity Entrepreneurs: Their Role in Transracial and Intercountry Asian Pacific Migration Adoptions," Journal6 (1997):385-413. 21. This argumentis developedfurtherin Rogers Brubaker,NationalismReframed Press,1996),chapter1. (Cambridge: Cambridge University 22. Mara Loveman, "Is 'race' essential? A comment on Bonilla-Silva," American Sociological Review,November 1999. See also Wacquant,"For an Analytic of Racial Domination";Rupert Taylor,"Racial Terminologyand the Question of 'Race' in South Africa,"manuscript,7; and Max Weber,Economyand Society, ed. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich (New York: BedminsterPress, 1968), 1: 385ff, for a strikinglymodern argumentquestioningthe analyticalutility of the notions of "race," "ethnicgroup," "nation." and 23. On "nation"as a "political fiction," see Louis Pinto, "Une fiction politique:
la nation," Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 64 (September 1986): 45-50,
a Bourdieuianappreciationof the studies of nationalism carried out by the eminent Hungarianhistorian Jen6 Sziics. On race as a "collectivefiction,"see "For an Analytic of Racial Domination,"222-223. The key work by Wacquant, Bourdieuin this domain is "L'identiteet la representation: 6elmentspour une
reflexion critique sur l'idee de r6gion," Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 35
in (November1980),part of which is reprinted Bourdieu,Languageand Symbolic
Power,trans. MathewAdamson, ed. John B. Thompson (Cambridge:Harvard, 1991). 24. EvenDurkheim's objectivistsociologicalmanifestoshies away uncompromisingly
from this extreme position; see The Rules of Sociological Method, chapter 2.
25. Wacquant,"For an Analytic of Racial Domination,"222. See also Wacquant's in urbainedans l'imaginaire criticismof the conceptof "underclass" "L'underclass in social et scientifiqueamericain," Serge Paugam,editor, L'exclusion: I'etatdes savoirs(Paris:La d6couverte, 1996):248-262. FemiTrouble: 26. For a sustainedand influentialexample,see JudithButler,Gender
nism and the Subversion of Identity (New York and London: Routledge, 1990).
27. For a recent review,see Calhoun,"Social Theory and the Politics of Identity," 9-36. 28. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva,for example, slides from an impeccablyconstructivist of as social systems" "societies... partiallystructured characterization "racialized to by the placementof actors in racialcategories" the claim that such placement "producesdefinite social relations between the races," where "the races" are as characterized real social groupswith differingobjectiveinterests("Rethinking AmericanSociologicalReview62 Racism: Towarda StructuralInterpretation,"
(1996), 469-470). In their influential Racial Formation in the United States (second
edition, New York:Routledge,1994),MichaelOmi and HowardWinantstriveto be more consistentlyconstructivist.But they too fail to remainfaithfulto their constructivistdefinitionof "race"as an "unstableand 'decentered' complex of social meaningsconstantlybeing transformed political struggle... [and as] a by concept which signifiesand symbolizessocial conflictsand interestsby referring to differenttypes of human bodies" (55, emphasis in original).The historical of they argue,wereand remainfundaimmigrants, experiences "whiteEuropean" mentallydifferentfrom those of "racialminoritygroups"(includingLatinos and Asian Americans as well as African Americans and Native Americans);the is paradigm" applicableto the formerbut not - becauseof its "neglect "ethnicity and of raceper se" - to the latter(14-23).This sharpdistinctionbetween"ethnic" "racial" groupsneglectsthe fact - now well establishedin the historicalliterature after of - that the "whiteness" severalEuropeanimmigrant groupswas "achieved" in an initialperiodin whichthey wereoftencategorized racialor race-liketermsas processes non-white; it also neglects what might be called "de-racialization" among some groups they consider fundamentally"racial."On the former, see "Inbetween JamesR. Barrettand David Roediger, Peoples:Race, Nationalityand
the 'New Immigrant' Working Class," Journal of American Ethnic History 16
"SecondGen(1997):3-44; on the latter,see Joel Perlmanand RogerWaldinger, Past and Present- a Reconsideration," erationDecline?Childrenof Immigrants,
International Migration Review 31/4 (Winter 1997), 893-922, esp. 903ff.
29. WalterBenn Michaelshas arguedthat ostensiblyconstructivistnotions of cultural identity,insofar as they are advanced - as they often are advanced in and practice,especiallyin connectionwith race,ethnicity, nationality- as reasons for our holding, or valuing,a set of beliefs or practices,cannot avoid essentialist accountsof identity... [T]he appealsto who we are."Thereare no anti-essentialist essentialisminheres not in the descriptionof the identitybut in the attemptto derivethe practicesfromthe identity- we do this becausewe are this. Hence antiessentialism... must take the form not of producingmore sophisticatedaccounts of identity (that is, more sophisticatedessentialisms)but of ceasing to explain what people do or should do by referenceto who they are and/or what culture
in theybelongto" ("Raceinto Culture:A CriticalGenealogyof CulturalIdentity," Identities,ed. Appiahand Gates, p. 61n).Note, however,the crucialelision at the end of the quoted passage between "do"and "shoulddo." Essentialisminheres, to pace Michaels,less in the "attempt derive[in an explanatory mode]the practice from the identity"than in the attemptto prescribethe practiceson the basis of an
ascribed identity: you ought to do this because you are this.
30. For a differentapproachto this question, see Fearon,"Whatis Identity(As We Now Use the Word)?" 31. See, for example, Jean L. Cohen, "Strategyor Identity:New TheoreticalParadigms and ContemporarySocial Movements,"Social Research 52/4 (Winter
32. Somers,"TheNarrative Constitutionof Identity." 33. This oppositiondependson a narrowconceptualization the category"interest," of one restricted interestsunderstoodto be directlyderivable to fromsocial structure (see for example ibid., 624). If interestis instead understoodto be culturallyor of constituted,to be dependenton the discursiveidentification interdiscursively ests and (more fundamentally) and reunits, to be "constituted interest-bearing constitutedin time and over time,"like narrativeidentitiesin Somer'saccount, then the oppositionloses muchof its force. 34. Some strandsof identitarian theorizingemphasizethe relativeautonomyof selfvis-a-vis social location.The tendencyis most pronouncedin the understanding fourthand the fifthuses sketchedbelow. 35. The contemporary of conceptualization identityas unmooredfrom social structureis foreignto most premodernsocial settings,whereself- and other-identifications are generallyunderstoodas followingdirectlyfrom social structure. See, for example,Peter Berger,"On the Obsolescenceof the Concept of Honor,"172-181
in Revisions: Changing Perspectives in Moral Philosophy, ed. Stanley Hauerwas
and AlasdairMacIntyre(Notre Dame: University Notre Dame Press,1983). of 36. Alberto Melucci,"The Process of CollectiveIdentity," Social Movements in and Culture,ed. Hank Johnstonand Bert Klandermans(Minneapolis:Universityof MinnesotaPress,1995). 37. Much recent work on gender,to be sure, has criticizedas "essentialist" idea the that women share a fundamentalsameness.Yet certain strandsof recent work nonethelesspredicatesuchsamenessof some "group" definedby the intersection of genderwith othercategoricalattributes(race,ethnicity,class, sexualorientation).
See, for example, Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990). 38. See, for example, Harold R. Isaacs, Idols of the Tribe: Group Identity and Political
WalkerConnor,Ethnonationalism, The Change(New York:Harper& Row, 1975); Questfor Understanding (Princeton:PrincetonUniversityPress,1994),195-209. 39. For a sophisticated historical and philosophical account, see Charles Taylor,
Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge: Harvard
Press,1989). University 40. For a key statementby Eriksonhimself,see Identity:Youth Crisis,22. and 41. See,forexample,Calhoun, "TheProblem Identity Collective of in Action"; Melucci, "The Process of Collective Identity"; Roger Gould, InsurgentIdentities:Class, of ChicagoPress,1995). 42. See, for example,StuartHall, "Introduction: Who Needs 'Identity?'" Questions in editedby StuartHall and Pauldu Gay (London:Sage, 1996). of Cultural Identity,
Community and Protest in Parisfrom 1848 to the Commune (Chicago: University
43. See,for example,Richard in PluralArenas," Richard Werbner, Identities, "Multiple
Werbner and Terence Ranger, editors, Postcolonial Identities in Africa (London:
Zed, 1996),1-26. 44. Two important,althoughpartial,exceptionsdeservenote.WalterBenn Michaels has formulateda brilliant and provocativecritique of the concept of "cultural But identity"in "Race into Culture." that essay focusesless on analyticaluses of the notion of "identity"than on the difficultyof specifyingwhat makes "our" culture or "our"past count as "ourown" - when the referenceis not to one's actualculturalpracticesor one's actualpersonalpast but to some putativegroup culture or group past - without implicitly invoking the notion of "race."He meant to displace race, concludesthat "oursense of cultureis characteristically but ... culturehas turnedout to be a way of continuingratherthan repudiating racial thought.It is only the appeal to race that ... gives notions like losing our
culture, preserving it, [or] ... restoring people's culture to them ... their pathos"
as (61-62). RichardHandlerarguesthat "we shouldbe as suspiciousof 'identity' and we havelearnedto be of 'culture,' 'nation,' 'ethnicgroup"'(27), but 'tradition,' then pulls his criticalpunches.His centralargument- that the salienceof "idenWestern,especiallyAmericansociety "doesnot mean that tity"in contemporary the concept can be applied unthinkinglyto other places and times" (27) - is certainlytrue, but it impliesthat the concept can be fruitfullyappliedin contemporaryWesternsettings,somethingthat otherpassagesin the same articleand his a own workon Quebecoisnationalismtend to call into question.See "Is'Identity'
Useful Cross-Cultural Concept?" in Commemorations: The Politics of National
Identity,ed. John Gillis (Princeton:PrincetonUniversityPress, 1994);the quotations are from p. 27. See also Handler, Nationalism and the Politics of Culture in
of Quebec(Madison:University WisconsinPress,1988). 2. 45. StuartHall,"WhoNeeds 'Identity?'" 46. "I use 'identity'to referto the meetingpoint, the point of suture,betweenon the one hand the discoursesand practiceswhich attemptto 'interpellate,' speakto us to hail us into place as the social subjectsof particular discourses,and on the other which constructus as subjects hand, the processeswhich producesubjectivities, which can be 'spoken.'Identitiesare thus points of temporaryattachmentto the subjectpositionswhichdiscursive practicesconstructfor us" (ibid., 5-6). 332. to 47. ClaudeLevi-Strauss, ed., concludingremarks Levi-Strauss, L'identite, and 48. Lawrence "Identity CulturalStudies:Is That All ThereIs,"in Hall Grossberg,
and du Gay, editors, Questions of Cultural Identity, 87-88.
46. 49. Melucci,"TheProcessof CollectiveIdentity," 50. Here the blurringbetween categories of analysis and categories of practice is striking.As RichardHandlerhas argued, scholarlyconceptions of particularly havetendedto replicate featuresof nationalist and "nation" "national key identity" of ideology,notablythe axiomaticunderstanding boundednessand homogeneity
in the putative "nation" (Nationalism and the Politics of Culture in Quebec). The
or couldbe madeabout"race" "ethnicity." same argument 51. See, for example,Isaacs,Idolsof the Tribe; Connor,"BeyondReason:The Nature of the Ethnonational Bond,"in Connor,Ethnonationalism. the 52. Somers,"The NarrativeConstitutionof Identity"; quotationsare from 605, Narrative 606, 614, and 618,emphasisin original.See also Somers's"Narrativity, Social and SocialAction:Rethinking Formation," EnglishWorking-Class Identity, Science History 16/4 (Winter 1992):591-630. For another argumentfor seeing see identityin terms of narrative, Denis-ConstantMartin,"TheChoices of Iden-
Identit&s et tity,"Social Identities1/1 (1995),5-20; see also idem, "Introduction: et ideologie," 13-38 in Denis-ConstantMartin, editor, politique:Recit, mythe,
Cartes d'identite: Comment dit-on "nous"en politique? (Paris: Presses de la Fonda-
tion Nationaledes SciencesPolitiques,1994). 53. Charles and 1-17 in Citizenship, Tilly,"Citizenship, Identity SocialHistory," Identity and Social History,ed. CharlesTilly (Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress, 1996).The quotationsare fromp. 7. 54. Craig Calhoun,"The Problemof Identityin CollectiveAction," in Joan Huber,
editor, Macro Micro Linkages in Sociology (Newbury Park, Cal.: Sage, 1991). The
quotationsare frompp. 53, 64-67. 55. Ibid., 53, 68. 56. Calhoun,"SocialTheoryand the Politicsof Identity," 9. 57. On the merits of "identification", Hall, "Who Needs 'Identity?'" see Although Hall's is a Foucauldian/post-Freudian of understanding "identification," drawing on the "discursive and psychoanalyticrepertoire," quite differentfrom that and proposedhere, he does usefullywarn that identificationis "almostas trickyas, thoughpreferable to,'identity'itself; and certainlyno guaranteeagainstthe conceptual difficultieswhich have beset the latter"(p. 2). See also AndreasGlaeser, "Divided in Unity: The Hermeneuticsof Self and Other in the Postunification BerlinPolice"(Ph.D. Dissertation,HarvardUniversity, 1997),esp. chapter1. 58. CraigCalhoun,Nationalism(Minneapolis:Universityof MinnesotaPress, 1997), 36ff. 59. For an anthropologicalperspective,usefullyextendingthe Barthianmodel, see Richard Jenkins, "RethinkingEthnicity:Identity, Categorizationand Power,"
Ethnic and Racial Studies 17/2 (April 1994): 197-223, and Jenkins, Social Identity
(Londonand New York:Routledge,1996). 60. PeterBerger, "Modern 163-164,makesa similarpoint,thoughhe phrases Identity," it in termsof a dialectic- and possibleconflict- betweensubjective objective and identity. 61. Gerard Noiriel, La tyranniedu national (Paris: Calmann-Levy,1991), 155-180; des Geneses idem,"L'identification citoyens:Naissancede l'etatcivil republicain," 13 (1993):3-28; idem, "Surveiller deplacementsou identifierles personnes? des Contributiona l'histoiredu passeporten Francede la Ier a la III Republique,"
Geneses 30 (1998): 77-100; Beatrice Fraenkel, La signature. genese d'un signe
(Paris:Gallimard,1992).A numberof scholars,includingJaneCaplan,historian at Bryn Mawr College, and JohnTorpey,sociologist at Universityof California, Irvine, are currentlyengaged in projects on passports and other identification documents. 62. Michel Foucault, "Governmentality," Graham Burchell et al., editors, The in
Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1991),87-104. Similarconceptionshave been appliedto colonial societies, especially in regardto the way colonizers'schemesfor classificationand enumeration and shape and indeedconstitutethe social phenomena(such as "tribe" "caste"in Bernard and India)beingclassified.See, in particular, Cohn, Colonialism Its Forms
of Knowledge. The British in India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).
63. On the dilemmas,difficulties,and ironies involvedin "administering in identity," authoritatively determiningwho belongs to what categoryin the implementation of race-consciouslaw, see ChristopherA. Ford, "Administering Identity:The Determination of 'Race' in Race-Conscious Law," CaliforniaLaw Review 82 (1994):1231-1285.
64. CharlesTilly,DurableInequality of (Berkeley: University CaliforniaPress,1998). 65. MelissaNobles,"'Responding withGood Sense': Politicsof Race and Censuses The in Contemporary Ph.D. Dissertation, YaleUniversity, 1995. Brazil," 66. See, for example, Melucci, "The Process of Collective Identity";Martin, "The Choicesof Identity." 67. Stuart Hall, "Introduction: Who Needs 'Identity?"';Margaret Somers, "The NarrativeConstitutionof Identity." 68. See Hall, "Introduction," and Alan Finlayson,"Psychology, 2ff; psychoanalysis Nationsand Nationalism (1998):157ff. 4/2 and theoriesof nationalism," 69. PierreBourdieu,The Logic of Practice,trans. RichardNice (Cambridge:Polity Press,1990). on 70. An extensive literature Africanand othersocieties,for example, anthropological eradicationmovements, describeshealingcults, spiritpossessioncults, witchcraft and other collective phenomenathat help to constituteparticularforms of selfparticularways in which individualssituate themselvessocially. understanding, in See studies rangingfrom classics by VictorTurner,Schismand Continuity an
African Society: A Study of Ndembu Village Life (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1957) and I. M. Lewis, Ecstatic Religion: An Anthropological Study of Spirit Possession and Shamanism (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1971) to more recent work by Paul Stoller, Fusion of the Worlds: An Ethnography of Possession among the Songhay of Niger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989) and Janice Boddy, Wombs and Alien Spirits. Women, Men and The Zar Cult in
of Northern Sudan(Madison:University WisconsinPress,1989). 71. For a poignantexample,see SlavenkaDrakulic'saccountof being "overcome by nationhood"as a resultof the war in the formerYugoslavia,in BalkanExpress.
Fragments from the Other Side of the War, trans. Maja Soljan (New York: W.W.
72. 73. 74.
Norton, 1993),50-52. 162. "ModernIdentity: Crisisand Continuity," See, for example,PeterBerger, See, for example,CraigCalhoun,"TheProblemof Identityin CollectiveAction," 68, characterizing identity." "ordinary For a good example of the latter, see Mary Waters'sanalysis of the optional, exceptionallyunconstrainingethnic "identities"- or what Herbert Gans has descendantsof called the "symbolicethnicity"- of third- and fourth-generation to EuropeanCatholicimmigrants the United States in EthnicOptions:Choosing of in Identities America(Berkeley: University CaliforniaPress,1990). to CharlesTilly,FromMobilization Revolution (Reading,Mass.:Addison-Wesley, 1978),62ff. of On the centrality categoricalcommonalityto modernnationalism,see Handler,
Nationalism and the Politics of Culture in Quebec, and Calhoun, Nationalism,
chapter2. in 77. See, for example,the discussionof the "anti-categorical imperative" Mustafa and Jeff Goodwin, "NetworkAnalysis, Culture,and the Problemof Emirbayer
Agency," American Journal of Sociology 99/6 (May 1994): 1414.
78. Lonsdale,"WhenDid the Gusii or Any Other Group Become a Tribe?"Kenya
Historical Review 5/1 (1977): 355-368; Abner Cohen, Custom and Politics in Urban Africa: A Study of Migrants in Yoruba Towns (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1969). Anthropologistswere influencedby the work of FredrickBarth,
editor, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organisation of Cultural Differ-
9-38. ence (London: Allen & Unwin, 1969), especially Barth's"Introduction," More recent and systematicconstructivistaccounts include Jean-LoupAmselle
and Elikia M'Bokolo, editors, Au coeur de 'ethnie: Ethnies, tribalisme et etat en
Afrique(Paris:Editionsla Decouverte,1985);LeroyVail, editor,The Creationof Tribalismin SouthernAfrica (Berkeley:Universityof California Press, 1988); TerenceRanger,"The Inventionof Traditionin Africa,"in Eric Hobsbawmand UniTerenceRanger,editors,The Invention Tradition of (Cambridge: Cambridge versityPress,1983),211-262. 79. Identity talk has become popular among Africanists in recent years, and the typicalinsistencethat identityis multipleis rarelyfollowedby explanationof why what is multipliedshouldbe consideredidentity.For a case in point, see Richard Werbner, "MultipleIdentities,PluralArenas,"in RichardWerbnerand Terence
Ranger, editors, Postcolonial Identities in Africa (London: Zed, 1996), 1-26. Afri-
canist scholarshave been criticalof the concepts of race and ethnicity,but often in still use "identity" an unexaminedway. See, for example,the special issue of
Journal of Southern African Studies 20/3 (1994), coordinated by Saul Dubow, John
Sharp, and Edwin N. Wilmsen."Ethnicityand Identityin SouthernAfrica."A more reflectiveapproach-deploying range of terms to indicatedifferentforms a of affiliationand examiningwhat "identical" contexts actuallymeansin particular - may be found in ClaudeFay,"'Car nous ne faisons qu'un': identites, equivalences, homologies au Maasina (Mali),"Cahierdes Sciences Humaines31/2 (1995) 427-456. Identitarianpositions are severelycriticized in Jean-FrancoisBayart,
L'illusion identitaire (Paris: Fayard, 1996). 80. E. E. Evans-Pritchard, The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People (Oxford: Clarendon, 1940).
81. See the pioneeringstudyof AbnerCohen,"Cultural in Strategies the Organization of TradingDiasporas,"in ClaudeMeillassoux,editor,TheDevelopment Indigeof nousTrade Markets(London:OxfordUniversityPress,1971). and
82. Paul Richards, Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth and Resources in Sierra
Leone(Oxford:Currey, 1996),79. 83. John Lonsdale,"Statesand Social Processesin Africa,"AfricanStudiesReview 24/2-3 (1981):139-225. 84. Jane Guyer,"Householdand Community," AfricanStudiesReview24/2-3 (1981):
87-137; Jean-Loup Amselle, Logiques metisses. Anthropologie del'identite, en Afrique et ailleurs (Paris: Payot, 1990). 85. Sharon Hutchinson, Nuer Dilemmas. Coping with Money, War, and the State
of (Berkeley: University CaliforniaPress,1995),29. 86. Gerard Prunier,The RwandanCrisis (New York: Columbia UniversityPress,
l'ethnisme: Rwanda et Burundi: 19901996) and Jean-Pierre Chretien, Le Defi de
1996 (Paris: Karthala, 1997). Similarly,Richards'saccount of conflict in Sierra Leone is notable for his stress on networks over groups, on creolizationover differentiation,and on overlappingmoral visions over conflicts of "cultures"
(Richards, Fighting for the Rain Forest).
87. For an elaborationof this argument,see Rogers Brubaker, "Mythsand Misconceptions in the Study of Nationalism,"in John Hall, editor, The State of the
Nation. Ernest Gellner and the Theory of Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge
UniversityPress,1998). 88. For a fullerversionof this argument,see Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, chapter 2. For a parallelargumentabout Yugoslavia,see VeljkoVujacicand Victor "The Causesof Disintegrationin the USSR and Yugoslavia," Telos88 Zaslavsky, (1991):120-140. 89. Some peripheralSoviet regions, to be sure, had already experiencednational
movementsin the last years of the Russianempire(and duringthe ensuingcivil war), but even in those regions, the social basis of such movementswas weak, with "the nation"was limited to a relativelysmall part of the and identification population. Elsewhere,the significanceof the regime in constituting national in divisionswas even more prominent.On Soviet "nation-making" the 1920s,see YuriSlezkine, "TheU.S.S.R.as a CommunalApartment,or How a SocialistState PromotedEthnicParticularism," SlavicReview53 (Summer1994):414-452;Terry D. Martin,"AnAffirmative Action Empire:Ethnicityand the Soviet State, 1923of Ph.D. Dissertation,University Chicago,1996. 1938," Komitetpo Statistike, 90. For data on nationalityand language,see Gosudarstvennyi
Natsional'nyi Sostav Naseleniia SSSR (Moscow: Finansy i Statistika, 1991): 78-79.
134. 91. Gitlin, Twilight, 92. One of the best introductions constructivist to analysisin Americanhistoryis Earl
Lewis, "Race," in Stanley Kutler, editors, Encyclopedia of the United States in the
Twentieth (New York:Scribners, 1996),129-160.See also BarbaraFields, Century Race and Ideologyin the United States of America,"New Left Review "Slavery, 181(May-June 1990):95-118.
93. Edmund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom. The Ordeal of Colonial
(New York:Norton, 1975).More recentworks on this formativeperiod Virginia 3rd include a special issue of Williamand Mary Quarterly, Series, 54/1 (1997), and Race: Differentiating Peoplesin the EarlyModernWorld," Ira "Constructing
Berlin, Many Thousands Gone. The First Two Centuries of Slavery in Northern
Harvard America(Cambridge: Press,1998). University 94. The differentways in which race was configuredin the Americas was one of history came into being, notably in the aftermath subjectsin which comparative
of Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the Americas (New York:
"On the Concept Knopf, 1946).An influentialshort statementis CharlesWagley,
of Social Race in the Americas," 531-545 in Contemporary Cultures and Societies
in LatinAmerica,ed. D. B. Heath and R. N. Adams (New York:RandomHouse, 1965). A more recent constructivistargument about the historical specificity of the idea of being "white"is exemplifiedin David Roediger, The Wagesof
Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (London: Verso,
1991). 95. One of the foundationaltexts of what is sometimesconsideredblacknationalism, MartinDelany'saccountof his voyageto Africa, is notablefor its lack of interest Whatcountedfor him was in the culturalpracticesof the Africanshe encountered. that a Christianof African origin would find his destiny in ridding himself of oppressionin the United Statesand bringingChristiancivilizationto Africa. See
Martin R. Delany and Robert Campbell, Searchfor a Place. Black Separatism and
of Africa1860,ed. HowardH. Bell (Ann Arbor:University MichiganPress,1969). connections- and recentbook on AfricanAmerican-African For an illuminating the differingways in which linkageswere made while culturaldistinctionswere
emphasized - see James Campbell, Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa (New York: Oxford University
Press,1995). 72 Whose America?"Transition (Winter 96. Eric Lott, "TheNew Cosmopolitanism: 1996):108-135. House: 97. For one such contribution,see KwameAnthony Appiah, In My Father's
Africa in the Philosophy of Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).
the 98. This is the point emphasized WalterBenn Michaels("Raceinto Culture"): by
47 than the assignmentof individualsto culturalidentitiesis even more problematic definitionof those identities. 99. AlisdairMacIntyre, of (Notre Dame, Indiana:University Notre Dame AfterVirtue Press,1981),22. 100. Iris Marion Young, "Polity and Group Difference:A Critique of the Ideal of Ethics99 (January UniversalCitizenship," 1989):257,258. See alsoYoung'sJustice
and the Politics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).
101. Young,"Polityand GroupDifference," 261. 267, 102. Ibid., 267, 268. 103. See especiallythe lucid and influentialbooks by Will Kymlicka: ComLiberalism,
munity, and Culture (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991) and Multicultural Citizenship. A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995).
104. AdamPrzeworski, "Proletariat a Class:The Processof Class Formationfrom into to Karl Kautsky's 'The Class Struggle' RecentControversies," Politicsand Society 7 (1977):372. 105. Pierre Bourdieu,"L'identiteet la representation: Elements pour une riflexion
critique sur l'idee de region," Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 35 (1980):
63-72. 106. David Laitin, "Marginality: Microperspective," A Rationalityand Society 7/1 1995):31-57. (January 107. In a debatewithYoung,the philosopherNancy Fraserhasjuxtaposeda politicsof to "recognition" one of "redistribution," arguingthat both are needed,since some groups are exploited as well as stigmatized or unrecognized.Strikingly,both parties to the debate treat group boundaries as clear-cut, and both therefore conceive of progressivepolitics as involvingintergroupcoalitions. Both neglect other forms of political action that do not presupposecommonalityor "groupness."Nancy Fraser,"FromRedistribution Recognition?Dilemmas of Justice to in a 'Post-Socialist' Age,"New Left Review212 (1995):68-93; Iris MarionYoung, A "'UnrulyCategories,' Critiqueof Nancy Fraser'sDual SystemsTheory,"ibid., 222 (1997):147-160.
108. Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998); Audie Klotz, Norms in International Relations: The Struggle Against Apartheid (Ithaca:
Cornell UniversityPress, 1995).See also the classic study of JeremyBoissevain,
Friends of Friends: Networks, Manipulators and Coalitions (Oxford: Blackwell,