Lord Of The Dead


( This essay is a response to Benhabib. )
THE CONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY 1
In order to see some of the strengths and weakness of identity politics as an approach to thinking about education, we need to make a distinction that is implicit, but not explicit, in Seyla Benhabib’s essay. For there are at least two distinct conceptions of identity politics at work in her discussion, and criticisms appropriate to one may not apply to the other. The first perspective considers identity a rather static quality of persons, and views the process of identity formation in predominantly passive terms; the other perspective involves what Benhabib calls “the fungibility of identity,” suggesting that ...

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by men, who “with their foot on women’s throats” do not allow them to speak for themselves. MacKinnon also has a crude, instrumental conception of power, especially in her view of the state as monolithic and fundamentally insensitive to women’s concerns (as she says, “the state is male”3). As a result, her view of politics is strategic and somewhat opportunistic: she appears willing to forge single-issue coalitions with any group to advance her cause, as she has with right-wing groups in her antipornography crusade. MacKinnon’s expressed sympathy for Clarence Thomas in the Hill-Thomas case is rather stunning, given her larger views on sexual harassment, and Benhabib places considerable weight on these comments as representing some larger dilemma faced by postmodern feminists in that dispute; but I do not see that MacKinnon’s comments typify a position taken by postmodern feminists generally.

MacKinnon is not postmodern in any sense that I can understand, and it seems rather ...

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The passive and reified sense of identity at work here, the crude conception of power, the instrumental and opportunistic politics, the embrace of “difference” only in the sense of leaving space for other self-interested and exclusionary groups to ply their trade, all seem out of step with a postmodern outlook.

On the other hand, there is also a position stressing, as Benhabib terms it, “the fungibility of identity,” which, whatever its merits or shortcomings, refers to an entirely different strand of thought from MacKinnon’s. In such theories (Judith Butler is Benhabib’s main example here), identity can be constructed in many different ways; and while this process is contingent, it ...

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PAPER DETAILS
Added: 12/19/2007 12:09:18 AM
Category: English
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 2432
Pages: 9

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