Neoliberalism and Identity
From the Black Lives Matter movement to the push for Trans-inclusive language, the claim to visibility, recognition, and protection by marginalized groups is at the forefront of our contemporary understandings of politics and culture. At the level of representation, a once lily-white and heteronormative cultural and political field is now populated by a wide diversity of peoples. And contrary to the dismissals of more simple-minded critics, increased recognition can indeed encourage a re-valuation of Black, female, and queer life—extending to marginalized groups not merely opportunity for individuals, but also the assumption of basic dignity and a right to rights. Yet, if the horizons of representation, as a force for emancipation, can seem frustratingly limited, we might ask about the nature of the broader system within which representation takes place: capitalism. How can we understand the status and power of identity within a system that, in addition to being historically racialized, engineers inequality as a matter of reproductive necessity? If neoliberal capitalism seemingly assimilates all things to itself, how can identity stand apart as a basis for both empowerment and resistance?
In this course, we will study the relationship between how one conceptualizes their individual identity and the larger socio-politico-economic frameworks that work to recognize, suppress, or commodify how one thinks of the self. Can we imagine, and articulate, a distinction between identity politics as a project of solidarity, and identitarianism as a reductive and essentializing position—and to what ends? Readings will include work by Olúfemi O. Táíwò, Linda Martín Alcoff, Jodi Dean, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Wendy Brown, Asad Haider, David Graeber, and others.
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
July 12 — August 02, 2023