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Recognition and the Other
Unformatted Document Text:  Recognition and the Other, p. 6 identities are voluntarily claimed (I am gay. I am a painter. I am an alcoholic). Other identities are bestowed (He is Jew. She is black. They are infidels). As Mary Waters points out, the political significance between voluntary and imposed identity is enormous and plays out in the field of recognition. Nevertheless, identifications are social constructs. Even people of the Book acknowledge that Adam named the beasts and plants. Recent critiques of identity politics have highlighted not just the socially constructedness of identity (race, for example, is a historical construct not a biological entity; sexual identity, similarly, is historically contingent), but the challenges of orchestrating political movements around identity because, among others reasons, identities are always multiple and frequently in tension. Benhabib, for example, writes: "The American political imagination has been so captured by group-identity thinking that we have ceased to inquire about the conditions of genesis, and therewith, of eventual transcendence of these categories and the forms of public struggle they dictate" (2000, 404.). The postmodernist claims that "identity categories are fluid, variable, historically contested and constructed" (2000, 405) and thereby, somehow fundamentally obsolescent, shows up in popular culture as well. Consider, for example, the following book review from the Guardian: Five years ago, I contributed to a feisty little anthology called Anti-Gay My chapter, "It’s Just a Phase: Why Homosexuality is Doomed", suggested that gay identity is a historically transient phenomenon destined for oblivion. This identity evolved, I argued, as a psychological and political defense against homophobia. Once we get rid of bigotry, gay identity will become redundant, as will its heterosexual counterpart (Tatchell, 2001). Tatchell’s argument of course ignores the questions of difference and otherness that manifest not just in homophobia, but in heterocentrism as well. Can any minority experience ever be other

Authors: Lipari, Lisbeth.
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Recognition and the Other, p. 6
identities are voluntarily claimed (I am gay. I am a painter. I am an alcoholic). Other identities
are bestowed (He is Jew. She is black. They are infidels). As Mary Waters points out, the
political significance between voluntary and imposed identity is enormous and plays out in the
field of recognition. Nevertheless, identifications are social constructs. Even people of the Book
acknowledge that Adam named the beasts and plants.
Recent critiques of identity politics have highlighted not just the socially constructedness
of identity (race, for example, is a historical construct not a biological entity; sexual identity,
similarly, is historically contingent), but the challenges of orchestrating political movements
around identity because, among others reasons, identities are always multiple and frequently in
tension. Benhabib, for example, writes: "The American political imagination has been so
captured by group-identity thinking that we have ceased to inquire about the conditions of
genesis, and therewith, of eventual transcendence of these categories and the forms of public
struggle they dictate" (2000, 404.). The postmodernist claims that "identity categories are fluid,
variable, historically contested and constructed" (2000, 405) and thereby, somehow
fundamentally obsolescent, shows up in popular culture as well. Consider, for example, the
following book review from the Guardian:
Five years ago, I contributed to a feisty little anthology called Anti-Gay My chapter, "It’s
Just a Phase: Why Homosexuality is Doomed", suggested that gay identity is a
historically transient phenomenon destined for oblivion. This identity evolved, I argued,
as a psychological and political defense against homophobia. Once we get rid of bigotry,
gay identity will become redundant, as will its heterosexual counterpart (Tatchell, 2001).
Tatchell’s argument of course ignores the questions of difference and otherness that manifest not
just in homophobia, but in heterocentrism as well. Can any minority experience ever be other


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