Identity politics  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Identity politics, also called identitarian politics, refers to political positions based on the interests and perspectives of social groups with which people identify. Identity politics includes the ways in which people's politics may be shaped by aspects of their identity through loosely correlated social organizations. Examples include social organizations based on age, religion, social class or caste, culture, dialect, disability, education, ethnicity, language, nationality, sex, gender identity, generation, occupation, profession, race, political party affiliation, sexual orientation, settlement, urban and rural habitation, and veteran status. Not all members of any given group are involved in identity politics.

The term identity politics came into being during the latter part of the 20th century, during the African-American Civil Rights Era. During this time period, identity politics was used by a minority group to form a coalition with members of the majority.

History

The term identity politics has been used in political discourse since at least the 1970s. One aim of identity politics has been for those feeling oppressed to articulate their felt oppression in terms of their own experience by a process of consciousness-raising. For example, in their terminal black feminist statement, the Combahee River Collective said:

[A]s children we realized that we were different from boys and that we were treated different—for example, when we were told in the same breath to be quiet both for the sake of being 'ladylike' and to make us less objectionable in the eyes of white people. In the process of consciousness-raising, actually life-sharing, we began to recognize the commonality of our experiences and, from the sharing and growing consciousness, to build a politics that will change our lives and inevitably end our oppression.

Identity politics, as a mode of categorizing, is closely connected to the ascription that some social groups are oppressed (such as women, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, etc.); that is, the claim that individuals belonging to those groups are, by virtue of their identity, more vulnerable to forms of oppression such as cultural imperialism, violence, exploitation of labour, marginalization, or powerlessness.

Class identity politics were first described briefly in an article by L. A. Kauffman, who traced its origins to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an organization of the civil rights movement in the USA in the early and mid-1960s. Although SNCC invented many of the fundamental practices which currently make up identity politics, and although various black power groups extended them, they apparently found no need to apply a term. Rather, the term emerged when others outside the black freedom movements—particularly, the race—and ethnic-specific women's liberation movements, such as Black feminism—began to adopt the practice in the late 1960s. Traces of identity politics can also be found in the early writings of the modern gay liberation movements, such as Dennis Altman's Homosexual: Liberation/Oppression, Jeffrey Week's Coming Out: Homosexual Politics in Britain from the Nineteenth Century to the Present, and

One of the older written examples of it can be found in the Combahee River Collective Statement of April 1977, subsequently reprinted in a number of anthologies, and Barbara Smith and the Combahee River Collective have been credited with coining the term; which they defined as "a politics that grew out of our objective material experiences as Black women.

Some groups have combined identity politics and Marxist social class analysis and class consciousness—the most notable example being the Black Panther Party—but this is not necessarily characteristic of the form. Another example is MOVE, who mixed black nationalism with anarcho-primitivism (a radical form of green politics based on the idea that civilization is an instrument of oppression, advocating the return to a hunter gatherer society).

During the 1980s, the politics of identity became very prominent and it was linked to a new wave of social movement activism.

The mid-2010s have seen a marked rise of identity politics, specifically white identity politics in the United States. This phenomenon is attributed to increased demographic diversity and the prospect of whites becoming a minority in America. Such shifts have driven many to affiliate with conservative causes including those not related to diversity. This includes the presidential election of Donald Trump, who won the support of prominent white supremacists such as David Duke and Richard B. Spencer.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Identity politics" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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