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Identity Politics in the Public Realm. Identity Politics. Groups are politicized on the basis of gender, ethnicity, language, religion, race, indigeneity to make claims for resources or opportunities based on some aspect of their identity. Normative Political theory .

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identity politics
Identity Politics

Groups are politicized on the basis of gender, ethnicity, language, religion, race, indigeneity to make claims for resources or opportunities based on some aspect of their identity.

normative political theory
Normative Political theory

…explores how claims to the recognition and accommodation of identity relate to broader principles of justice, freedom, human rights, and democratic citizenship

(see Appiah 2005, Gutmann 2003, Kymlicka 1995, Taylor 1994, Tully 1995; for a notable exception and dissent, see Barry 2001).

empirical social science
Empirical Social Science

…explores the social and political processes which actually underpin the politicization of identity groups

(see, e.g. Deveaux 2008, Jung 2008, Tilley 2002, etc.).

risks of identity politics and political mobilization
Risks of Identity Politics and Political Mobilization
  • Entrenching elite hierarchies

Deveaux 2008, Shachar 2001, Song 2007

State accommodation can embolden group elites to exert pressure on their members to respect traditional lines of authority


State refusal to accommodate can trigger cultural defensiveness or reactivism which reinforces power of conservative traditions (and elites) to shield the group from outside pressures


2. Cooptation/domestication

Alfred 1999, Coultard 2007, see Brysk 2000

Risk that identity politics offers minor adjustments while diverting resources of vulnerable groups away from political struggles that are more directly relevant to addressing underlying causes of injustice


3. Essentialism and stereotyping

Phillips 2007

Identity groups will press their claims by playing into mainstream stereotypes and thereby encouraging narrow and stereotypical understandings of what constitutes their identities


4. Social fragmentation/group polarization

Miller 1995, Putnam 2007

Identity politics encourages people to mobilize on the basis of what distinguishes them rather than unites them and it undermines social trust

factors that make a difference to institutional responses
Factors that make a difference to institutional responses
  • History matters
  • International influences
  • Democratic engagement/effective participation
  • Institutional reflexivity/humility

Appiah, Kwame Anthony (2005) The Ethics of Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Barry, Brian (2001) Culture and Equality: An Egalitarian Critique of Multiculturalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.  

Brysk, Alison (2000) From Tribal Village to Global Village: Indian Rights and International Relations in Latin America. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Copp, David (2002) ‘Social Unity and the Identity of Persons’. The Journal of Political Philosophy, 10/4: 365-91.

Deveaux, Monique (2006) Gender and Justice in Multicultural Liberal States. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Eisenberg, Avigail (2009) Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fournier , Pascale (2002) "The Ghettoization of Difference in Canada: "Rape by Culture" or the Danger of a Cultural Defense in Criminal Law Trials " Manitoba Law Journal 29: 81-113

Friedlander, Judith (2006) Being Indian in Hueyapan. Revised ed. London: Macmillan/Palgrave.

Gutmann, Amy (2003) Identity in Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

James, Matt (2006) Misrecognized Materialists: Social Movements in Canadian Constitutional Politics UBC Press.

Jung, Courtney (2008) The Moral Force of Indigenous Politics: Critical Liberalism and the Zapatistas. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Koopmans, Ruud (2006) “Trade-Offs Between Equality and Difference: The Crisis of Dutch Multiculturalism in Cross-National Perspective”, Danish Institute for International Affairs, Brief , December 2006).

Kymlicka, Will (1995) Multicultural Citizenship. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Merry, Sally Engle (2001) “Change Rights, Changing Culture.” Culture and Rights: Anthropological Perspectives, Jane K. Cowan, Marie-BénédicteDembour and Richard A. Wilson eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Miller, David (1995) On Nationality Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Moore, Margaret (2006) ‘Identity claims and identity politics: A limited defence’, in IgnorPrimoratz and AleksandorPavković (eds.), Identity, Delf-determination, and Secession. London: Ashgate, 27-44

Phillips Anne (2007) Multiculturalism without Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Povinelli, Elizabeth (1998) ‘The state of shame: Australian multiculturalism and the crisis of Indigenous citizenship’. Critical Inquiry, 24: 575-610.

Putnam, Robert D. 2007 “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture.” Scandanavian Political Studies 30(2): 137-74.

Shachar, Ayelet (2001) Multicultural Jurisdictions. Cambridge: UK: Cambridge University Press.

Song, Sarah (2007) Justice, Gender and the Politics of Multiculturalism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Taylor, Charles (1994) Multiculturalism and the ‘Politics of Recognition’. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Tilley, Viriginia Q. (2002. ‘New help or new hegemony? The transnational indigenous peoples’ movement and ‘being Indian’ in El Salvador’. Journal of Latin American Studies, 34: 525-54.

Tully, James. (1995). Strange Multiplicity: Constitutionalism in the Age of Diversity. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

Volpp, Leti (2000) ‘Blaming culture for bad behaviour’, Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, 12: 89-116.

Waldron, Jeremy. (2000). ‘Cultural identity and civic responsibility’. In Will Kymlicka and Wayne Norman (eds.), Citizenship in Diverse Societies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 155-74.

Warren, Mark ed. 1999 Democracy and Trust, Cambridge University Press.

Weinstock, Daniel (2006) ‘Is “identity” a danger to democracy?’, in Igor Primoratz and AleksandarPavkovic (eds.),Identity, Self-determination and Secession. London: Ashgate, 15-26.


1. Introduction:Bringing Institutions Back In

Avigail Eisenberg and Will Kymlicka

2. Democratic Dilemmas of Census Categorization in the Post-Civil Rights Era

Melissa Nobles

3. Knowledge and the Politics of Ethnic Identity and Belonging in Colonial and Post-Colonial States

Bruce Berman

4. Defining Indigeneity: The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 in the Philippines, Representation and Indigenous Identity

VilliaJefremovas and Padmapani L. Perez

5. Defining Indigeneity in Latin America: How to Classify Afro-descendants?

Juliet Hooker

6. Domestic and International Norms for Assessing Indigenous Identity

Avigail Eisenberg

7. The Challenge of Naming the Other in Latin America

Victor Armony

8. From Immigrants to Muslims: How the French Politics of Integration Transformed Secularism


9. Beliefs” and “religion”: categorizing cultural distinctions among East Asians

André Laliberté

10. Assessing Religious Identity in Law: Sincerity, Accommodation and Harm

Lori G. Beaman

11. Reasonable Accommodations and the Subjective Conception of Freedom of Conscience and Religion

Jocelyn Maclure

  • Forthcoming UBC Press Fall 2011