The Use and Abuse of Identity in Public Life

The question of identity has become urgent for activism in the West though the issue has been important in many other parts of the world as well. Political identities form in opposition to oppression (or, reactively, as perceived victimization) and demand recognition, rights, and equity (or aggressively promote their denial). They also divide, become separated … Watch video »

The question of identity has become urgent for activism in the West though the issue has been important in many other parts of the world as well. Political identities form in opposition to oppression (or, reactively, as perceived victimization) and demand recognition, rights, and equity (or aggressively promote their denial). They also divide, become separated in privilege, get co-opted, and become instruments of domination. Can identity struggles lead to fundamental social transformation or must they necessarily be limited to the horizon of recognition and reform? Can the empowerment of identity be woven into solidarity or must it necessarily be doomed to fragmentation and the sustenance of the status quo?

Samir Gandesha has been a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California at Berkeley (1995-97) and an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow at the Universität Potsdam (2001-2002). He is currently Associate Professor in the Department of the Humanities and the Director of the Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University. He specializes in modern European thought and culture, with a particular emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. His work has appeared in a wide range of journals including Political Theory, New German Critique, Constellations, Logos, Kant Studien, Philosophy and Social Criticism, the European Legacy, the European Journal of Social Theory, Discipline Filosofiche, Estudios Politicos, Zeitschrift für kritische Theorie, Radical Philosophy, and Constelaciones: Revista de Teoria Critica. He is co-editor with Lars Rensmann of Arendt and Adorno: Political and Philosophical Investigations (Stanford, 2012), and co-editor with Johan Hartle of Spell of Capital: Reification and Spectacle (University of Amsterdam Press, 2017) and Aesthetic Marx (Bloomsbury Press, 2017). He regularly contributes to popular publications such as openDemocracy, Canadian Dimension, the Vancouver Sun and the Globe and Mail. He is currently editing a book entitled Spectres of Fascism (Pluto Press), co-editing (with Peyman Vahabzadeh) Beyond Phenomenology and Critique: Essays in Honour of Ian Angus (Arbeiter Ring), and preparing a manuscript on the “Neoliberal Personality.”

Moderated by Terry Maley. Recorded in Toronto, 26 September 2019.