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Recognition and the Other
Unformatted Document Text:  Recognition and the Other, p. 7 than "other"? And what is to be gained by absorbing otherness into sameness in this way? Is the end of difference really a political or ethical goal? These sentiments seem to bespeak a liberalist nostalgia for a future where all distinction is absorbed into sameness. Thus to say that identity is a social construction, or socially constructed, is only to begin the conversation. All too often, it has been the end. Let’s begin with what it doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean, for example, that because it is socially constructed it doesn’t exist (which would inadvertently privilege the "real" by implying that existence only begins in some essential, material, or natural realm ). It doesn’t mean, to continue, that (socially constructed) identity isn’t experienced, felt, lived. Experience is both symbolic and material, socially constructed and embodied. It doesn’t mean, further, that we can easily or effortlessly de-construct it simply by saying so. It also doesn’t mean, or imply, that identity is constructed in totalized homogenous configurations or that it means the same thing to everyone. Queerness, for example, is no more multiple or socially constructed than, for example the Naga of Northern India, who are ethnically Chinese, and comprise 40 different tribal groups, speak multiple languages, and have been fighting for the past 60 years, since Indian independence, for independence from India. The Naga identity is as socially constructed as the nation state of India, or the immigrant nation-states of the U.S. or France. Being queer, in other words, is as socially constructed as being American. The paradox of identity, is of course related to the paradox of recognition -- that is, the very categories that mark and describe difference also construct categories of sameness, or at least the semblance of sameness. The discursive constructs that distinguish men and women also construct classifications of similarity amongst men and women. But is this contradiction a reason to dispense with categories altogether? I would argue not. To stress the fluidity of categories without also stressing the lived material experiences of embodied, and often

Authors: Lipari, Lisbeth.
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Recognition and the Other, p. 7
than "other"? And what is to be gained by absorbing otherness into sameness in this way? Is the
end of difference really a political or ethical goal? These sentiments seem to bespeak a liberalist
nostalgia for a future where all distinction is absorbed into sameness.
Thus to say that identity is a social construction, or socially constructed, is only to begin
the conversation. All too often, it has been the end. Let’s begin with what it doesn’t mean: it
doesn’t mean, for example, that because it is socially constructed it doesn’t exist (which would
inadvertently privilege the "real" by implying that existence only begins in some essential,
material, or natural realm ). It doesn’t mean, to continue, that (socially constructed) identity isn’t
experienced, felt, lived. Experience is both symbolic and material, socially constructed and
embodied. It doesn’t mean, further, that we can easily or effortlessly de-construct it simply by
saying so. It also doesn’t mean, or imply, that identity is constructed in totalized homogenous
configurations or that it means the same thing to everyone. Queerness, for example, is no more
multiple or socially constructed than, for example the Naga of Northern India, who are ethnically
Chinese, and comprise 40 different tribal groups, speak multiple languages, and have been
fighting for the past 60 years, since Indian independence, for independence from India. The Naga
identity is as socially constructed as the nation state of India, or the immigrant nation-states of
the U.S. or France. Being queer, in other words, is as socially constructed as being American.
The paradox of identity, is of course related to the paradox of recognition -- that is, the
very categories that mark and describe difference also construct categories of sameness, or at
least the semblance of sameness. The discursive constructs that distinguish men and women also
construct classifications of similarity amongst men and women. But is this contradiction a
reason to dispense with categories altogether? I would argue not. To stress the fluidity of
categories without also stressing the lived material experiences of embodied, and often


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