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To whom do you owe your allegiance?

Symbolic violence and the racial order

Michelle Cliff, No Telephone to Heaven Questions of identity are at the forefront of contemporary discussions ofculture, power, and, indeed, allegiance. These critical interrogations of identity raise important and, indeed , troubling issues for scholars and activists concerned with the politics of social transformation. Some caution that a dismantling of group identities, incited by poststructuralist critiques ofthe subject, can lead to a "logical pulverization of the social" Laclau and Mouffe , undermining not only our ability to conceptualize dominant or hegemonic social formations Hall, "On Postmodernism" , but also Diaspora the emancipatory subject positions of oppressed social groups Gates.

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Such concerns do not voice a longing for an a priori subject of history; rather, they indicate an awareness of the theoretical complexities and pitfalls of reconceptualizing a politics of social transformation "without guarantees" Hall, "The Problem". For if we are to avoid the non sequitur, which, as Gates observes, "moves us from the 'socially constructed' to the essentially unreal" , then we must sharpen our understanding of how identities are constituted, inhabited, and repositioned within complex and increasingly global configurations of power and meaning.

A focus on the politics of identity—on mapping the "continuous 'play' of history, culture and power" Hall, "Cultural" in the formation of identities—can yield key insights into broader questions of social transformation.


Postessentialist views of identity challenge us to attend to heterogeneous economies of power that subjugate social groups "non-synchronously" across multiple axes of difference Hicks. Not only are we encouraged to radically rethink if not abandon categories, such as "the State," "patriarchy," "the colonized," and, indeed, "the working class," through which we have fruitfully thought the dialectic of domination and resistance, but we are also confronted with the formidable and—from a political perspective —inescapable task of reconceptualizing how dispersed practices of subjugation are articulated within specific "historical blocks," to use Gramsci's phrase.

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Indeed, it is precisely by investigating the formation of identities, by mapping the circuits of subjugating practices that constitute, articulate , and "naturalize" subject positions within specific social formations , that we gain insight into the process of hegemony—that complex alignment or, better, allegiance of political subjects within governing regimes.

For ifwe are to realize a "politics ofdifference"— a politics that, as Jana Sawicki notes, "enables us to multiply the sources of resistance to particular forms of domination" 28 —we will have to "imagine" and construct new political subjects, terrains, and allegiances, while disrupting specific practices of domination that empower politically disabling identities. In short, to realize the promise of theory, we will have to engage essentialism as a political force. Philip Kasinitz's book Caribbean New York: Black Immigrants and the Politics ofRace makes an important contribution to charting what Roger Rouse calls an "alternative cartography of social space" 12 upon which to rethink a critical region of the politics of identity: race and cultural difference.

Kasinitz sets out to explain why ethnicity is playing an increasingly important role in how Afro-Caribbean New Yorkers construct their public and, specifically, political identities. For most of this Race and the Politics ofIdentity century, he observes, black immigrants from the non-Hispanic Caribbean tended Access options available:.

Postmodernist explanations of Society, Identity and Social Inequality

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Without cookies your experience may not be seamless. Buy As Gift. Overview Essay from the year in the subject Sociology - Political Sociology, Majorities, Minorities, grade: 1,5, University of Leicester Department of Sociology , course: Identity and Society, 19 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: The issue about 'race' is still of great significance in today's societies. Recent incidents like racist slurs at football games show how deep racist tendencies are still embedded in people's minds - in spite of consistent awareness raising and information.

Orientalism, Counter-Orientalism and Identity in Multicultural Britain | SpringerLink

However, these examples show only the peak of racist tendencies. Racial imagery in media and arts is central to the organisation of the modern world Dyer 1. Furthermore, the scientific 'foundation' of theories of 'race' continues to be a disputed question for biology as well as for the social sciences Lang x. This essay is about the implications of the term 'race' and the coherence of 'race' and identity. It implements a postmodern approach to the understanding of identity and applies this concept to the representation of 'the other' in a recent newspaper article.

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