I spend a good amount of time thinking about identity politics. One of the things that I’ve come to believe is that there is a paradox at the very heart of identity politics today.
(Side note: I’m writing this as part of my attempt to document my head noise on a regular basis… This is not well thought out, but it is on my mind today. These thoughts might be very transitory, they may stick around relatively unchanged. Time will tell.)
To understand the paradox it is important to understand the tension that exists between one’s identity and the process of identification.
The way I see individual identity is something that differentiates an individual from all other individuals. This is why things like identity theaft are so problematic. When someone steals your identity they can steal something that is unique to the individual, that the individual uses to show he/she is singular within a society. In this way identity is something that separates us and isolates us. Ergo, identity makes us alone.
While I’m sure others will disagree with me, I see contemporary forms of Identification as something that people do to belong.
For example, when someone says,
“I identify as X”
By identifying with X (which is often an ideology, or a group) the person who identifies is, I think, saying I’m in and that others who don’t identify in the same way are out.
My conclusion is that identification is being used by many people as a way to have an identity but not pay the cost of being alone that having an identity demands.