[iDC] identity, identity politics, and individualism

Sareeta B Amrute amrutes at u.washington.edu
Fri Oct 2 18:01:32 UTC 2009

Hi Michael,

I do appreciate disciplinary differences, however I think it is worthwhile to 
create conceptual clarity around terms such as 'identity' and 'individualism'.  
In this respect, we can trace out the ways in which identity politics has 
emerged as a container for selfhood that may enable certain forms of political 
action while constraining others.  The question agency seems to me to be tied up 
with these historical-conceptual formations.  That is, rather than thinking 
about a lack or surplus of agency, it might be more useful to think about kinds 
of agency that can be marshaled by people in particular contexts.


> Dear Sareeta,
> Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Obviously one of the confounding
> and also enriching aspects of this dialogue is that different
> participants rely on different traditions  of scholarship/thought/
> experience, and therefore tend to have in mind different bundles of
> related meanings for terms such as identity.
> I am however not sure that, as you suggest,  one escapes the issue of
> agency by speaking of the performative nature of such instantial atoms
> as actions, events, utterances and emotions, since in each case
> someone is performing these, and that  someone has a history and
> indeed a unique time-space (and thus experiential) trajectory, as well
> as an internal sense of meaning and intent, as well as? much of the
> time? of ongoing, and, in some kernel, unchanging selfhood.

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