Drawing on both philosophical sources as well as theories and empirical studies in the social sciences, this book makes a strong case that identities are not like special interests, nor are they doomed to oppositional politics, nor do they inevitably lead to conformism, essentialism, or reductive approaches to judging others. Identities are historical formations and their political implications are open to interpretation. But identities such as race and More In the heated debates over identity politics, few theorists have looked carefully at the conceptualizations of identity assumed by all sides.
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Visible identities, according to Alcoff, are a resource in a pluralistic democracy, and are not to be eschewed for a simple American identity beyond hyphens, race, ethnicity, and gender difference. Richard Rorty captured this distinction by framing it in terms of the two questions "what are we? The "who are we? Answers to the "who" question are always hopeful, for they point to not what we are but who we hope to be.
Thus, the political question is a constituting one that points to an ongoing formative project, and it requires the political community to work through time to achieve their collective ideal identity.
Alcoff would disagree with the completeness of the distinction that Rorty drew. She argues in Visible Identities that "what" we are, as well as "where" we are -- in terms of our social location -- has political implications, although not the deterministic implications that racial nationalists would desire. Rorty assumes that strongly felt identities, such as race and ethnicity, necessarily undermine the project of achieving our nation, and that such identities contain a logic that is anti-political, in the Rawlsian sense, because they undermine the realization of an overlapping consensus.
The four chapters that make up that section are expanded versions of recent work, and take up the bulk of Visible Identities.
They are, respectively, the separation, reification, and reasoning problems, and each comes with its own assumptions about the nature of difference. The first is straightforward, and concerns the worry that any "strongly felt" ethnic, racial, or cultural identity harms or prevents needed national cohesion.
The second problem claims that these identities reify what are really illusory categories. Furthermore, since these categories come with scripts, determined by social expectations and stereotypes, they serve to undermine individual autonomy and individually formed rational life plans.
The third problem charges that strongly felt social identities interfere with rational deliberation, especially concerning political, ethical, and cultural matters. Strongly felt identities, and the expectation of loyalty and authenticity that comes with them, interferes with public reason and broader democratic deliberation.
Simply put, critics charge that identity politics compels individuals to value the good of their group over that of the common good. Alcoff responds to these problems and reveals the flaws in their related assumptions by drawing on an array of continental philosophy, hermeneutics, phenomenology, race and gender theory, and feminist epistemology to develop her own theory of identity.
They are the "situations" from which we come to know, understand, and reason about the world. Since our identities so strongly affect our interaction with the world, they cannot be so easily transcended in the way that liberals typically demand. Secondly, for Alcoff, the identities of race and gender are embodied and visible to the world. Our experience of our identities is not as a mere concept or category; they are the experiences of our bodies in our social worlds, of our embodied visibility.
Furthermore, not only do our bodies affect our experience of the world but our bodies, as marked by race and gender, also enter into the experience of others. Individuals are not interacted with merely as interlocutor, citizen, person, or human; within our social worlds persons engage others as gendered and raced beings. Located as we are within our embodied identities, it is naive for liberals to insist that individuals who recognize and seek recognition of their embodied identities are "reifying" those identities.
It is worse than naive, moreover, for liberals to insist that individuals can adorn themselves with a mantle of citizenship that would cover up their embodied and visible differences. This insistence is malicious and exclusionary when it is put forward by a society that cultivates what Charles Mills called an epistemology of ignorance about the social role and presence of gender and race, and the historical place of those categories in the formation of modern liberal democracies.
From sociological to analytic philosophical investigations about race, objectivist analyses have dominated, and have all been concerned with the social structures that make race salient in individual and group life, the level to which such human categories parallel deep biological structures, and whether those categories are in some sense real.
Alcoff effectively argues that any analysis of the ontology of race, ethnicity, or gender will necessarily be incomplete without seriously considering the embodied experience of beings marked by those categories. However, Alcoff does not seek to replace objectivist accounts of social identities with one based on hermeneutics and phenomenology; rather, she thinks that they are consistent and can be fruitfully paired. She attempts such a pairing in her sixth chapter, where she defends the controversial theory that the "objective basis of sex categories is in the differential relationship to reproductive capacity between men and women She defends a dialogical account of the self that incorporates her use of hermeneutics and phenomenology, and argues that individuals participate in multiple and hybrid identities.
Of course, the familiarity of the latter idea is due in no small part to the influence that her essay "Mestizo Identity" has had on race theory.
The upshot of these features of her account is to further weaken the three objections she analyzes, especially the assumption that such identities lead to narrow, isolated, and separated self-conceptions that undermine national political life.
Although Alcoff does present cogent answers to the three objections against identity, especially insofar as those objections are based in metaphysical and epistemological assumptions about race, ethnicity, and gender, her analysis in the fourth chapter, "Real Identities," does not address the objections of those who hold the positions of racial nominalism, skepticism, or eliminativism.
At best, Alcoff demonstrates how race, ethnicity and gender are present in our lives and in society, as well as their effect on how we know the world. Her arguments, however, do not address the metaphysical arguments of those who question the objective existence of at least one of the central categories of her analysis. What she gives us is how race is experienced as real, but she has not established its reality. The remaining sections of Visible Identities are devoted to discussions of particular identities and the detailing of her phenomenological account of racial embodiment.
Those chapters have been previously published but they have also been reworked to include her insights from the first section. The desire of those communities to conserve their identities presents a challenge to those liberals who want to shift the national discussion to unity and the common good.
However, there is a tension in her work between the radical particularity of identity in her account of racial embodiment, and her account of the role of social identities within democracy. In short, I worry that Alcoff does not fully consider the incentives that social identities have to institutionalize and to form bureaucracies.
This leads her to ignore the deeper concerns that critics have about identity politics as a species of special interest politics. While she places the social identities she analyzes within the context of group interaction, her emphasis on hybridity and multiplicity allows for enough divergence so that three problems with identity are avoided. This feature of her account is developed in her discussion of mixed race and mestizo identity.
She also, however, reminds us that these complex and radically particular identities have historically served as points of political organization, and argues that they should engender larger political participation.
Alcoff develops this line of thought in the first chapter, as well as in her chapters on Latino and mixed race identity. In that analysis she avoids, however, the dangers of the institutionalization of those identities, which precisely lead to critiques of identity politics.
They seek to suppress the very multiplicity and hybridity which Alcoff depends upon to save identity from the criticisms of liberals.
For the sake of their own visibility, groups engender the invisibility of other embodied identities. The rise of mixed race consciousness and the claiming of the identity by an increasing number of multiracial youth, who otherwise would have been considered to be a member of "just" one race, has been met with widespread suspicion, criticism, and active opposition from such institutional forces as the NAACP and La Raza. This problem is also apparent in her discussion of the black-white binary.
Within that chapter -- which is especially pertinent in the context of our present national discussions of immigration and conflicts between African Americans and Latinos -- she criticizes the unjustified focus on black and white concerns and perspectives in national discussions of race.
The price of the black-white binary, according to Alcoff, is the diminishment of the rights and interests of groups outside the black-white binary, and she presents a strong argument for the abandonment of the binary in political and philosophical investigations of race and racism. Alcoff has offered a series of arguments that race, ethnicity, and gender are visible identities that cannot simply be wished away, and should have a place in political life.
Her metaphysical arguments, however, will not satisfy the political worries of the liberal critics of identity. They will still want to know how our visible identities can become properly public identities that aid us to understand and motivate us to strive for the common good.
The question remains, who are we? Cambridge: Harvard University Press. New York: W. The Racial Contract. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
ALCOFF VISIBLE IDENTITIES PDF
New York: Oxford University Press, Portions or revised versions of previously published essays are coherently included, illuminating and connecting her years of thinking about racial and gender identities. Years ago, she was a student in the philosophy department in which I taught. Since then, I have tried to keep in touch with her, have followed her illustrious career with interest and enthusiasm, and have learned a great deal from her. That said, I was delighted to see that she still finds useful those remarks about women. In this book, Alcoff engages not only with current critics of identity politics but also with the history of philosophy and political theory as well as many other recent and current philosophers and theorists. The number and range of those with whom she is in dialogue are indeed impressive and together unfold the historical lineage of the problems she addresses, always careful to offer thoughtful argument when she disagrees and to give generous credit to those from whom she draws more positively.
Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self
Visible Identities fills this gap. Drawing on both philosophical sources as well as theories and empirical studies in the social sciences, Martin Alcoff makes a strong case that identities are not like special interests, nor are they In the heated debates over identity politics, few theorists have looked carefully at the conceptualizations of identity assumed by all sides. Drawing on both philosophical sources as well as theories and empirical studies in the social sciences, Martin Alcoff makes a strong case that identities are not like special interests, nor are they doomed to oppositional politics, nor do they inevitably lead to conformism, essentialism, or reductive approaches to judging others. Identities are historical formations and their political implications are open to interpretation. But identities such as race and gender also have a powerful visual and material aspect that eliminativists and social constructionists often underestimate. Visible Identities offers a careful analysis of the political and philosophical worries about identity and argues that these worries are neither supported by the empirical data nor grounded in realistic understandings of what identities are.
Sajin The second problem claims that these identities reify what are really illusory categories. The third problem charges that strongly felt social identities interfere with rational deliberation, especially concerning political, ethical, visibble cultural matters. Besides addressing the general contours of social identity, the book develops an account of the material infrastructure of gendered identity, compares and contrasts gender identities with racialized ones, and explores the experiential aspects of racial subjectivity for both vusible and non-whites. However, there is a tension in her work between the radical particularity of identity in her account of racial embodiment, and her account of the role of social identities within democracy. Visible identities, according to Alcoff, are a resource in a pluralistic democracy, and are not to be eschewed for a simple American identity beyond hyphens, race, ethnicity, and gender difference. They will still want to know how our visible identities can become properly public identities that aid us to understand and motivate us to strive for the common good.
LINDA ALCOFF VISIBLE IDENTITIES PDF
Kektilar The four chapters that make up that section are expanded versions of recent work, and take up the bulk of Visible Identities. Martin Alcoff develops a more realistic characterization of identity in general through combining phenomenological approaches to embodiment with hermeneutic concepts of the interpretive horizon. On the Epistemic Costs of Implicit Bias. Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self — Oxford Scholarship This insistence is malicious and exclusionary when identitise is put forward by a society that cultivates what Charles Mills called an epistemology of ignorance about the social role and presence of gender and race, and the historical place of those categories in the formation of modern liberal democracies. Choose your country or region Close. Want to Read Currently Reading Read.