SG - How Identity Became Political

What is “identity politics”? What can be said about it as a catalyst in emancipations or its wider impacts on democratic societies?

Organised by Studium Generale

Tue 16 February 2021 20:00

Venue Online

About lecture series Identity Politics

Moving beyond psychological perspectives, we now look at identities in collective public political experience. While the term ‘‘Identity Politics’’ may be unfamiliar to some, groups and movements defined by a common sense of identity may not be. Race, gender, LGTBQ, class, religion, social backgrounds, age or for that matter any other commonly shared experience taking on an identity have been at the centre of struggles by those challenging power, speaking out against oppression and/or seeking inclusion. But what do we really know about the politicization of identity and the contending perspectives on it as an inclusive emancipatory approach to change? Markha Valenta (UU), Ewald Engelen (UvA) and André Krouwel (VU) look at identity politics through the lenses of cultural anthropology and history, as well as economic geography and political science.

How Identity Became Political

What is “identity politics”? And what dynamics has this term come to signify? Drawing on examples from around the world, Markha Valenta will combine anthropological insights with political historical analysis to dive into identity as a catalyst in emancipations. She will trace the emergence of this cultural/political phenomenon and walks us through its history, addressing assumptions about the origins of the term applied to a wide range of movements seeking recognition and social justice. While some argue that identity politics is essential to creating more just and democratic societies, others are profoundly critical of the ways in which it might simplify identity, derail democratic politics, and shut down dialogue. Tonight we explore these debates touching upon (less) well-known examples ranging from Suffragettes to queer and trans liberation, disability and migrant rights movements, Indigenous rights movements and beyond.

About Markha Valenta

Markha Valenta works at the intersection of politics, anthropology and history. Her focus is on how the large-scale systems organizing our world – nation-states, racial capitalism and technology – entwine democracy and brutality; equality and dehumanization; citizenship and alienation. More specifically, she examines how globalization is transforming our social and political relations.

Markha was originally trained in American Studies, where she specialized in migration history, identity politics and public religion. Today, her research is internationally comparative with an emphasis on the Netherlands (Western Europe), the United States (North America) and India (South Asia). For many years, Markha was the director of the American Studies BA program at Radboud University, Nijmegen, where she taught about US democracy, religion, international relations and planetary cultural politics. More recently, she transferred to Political Science at University College Utrecht, where she teaches a community-engaged course on the politics of migration, as well as about religion and politics in the modern world. She has just been named the new President of the Netherlands American Studies Association and in the spring of 2021 will the Urban Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies, working closely with the Amsterdam municipality on the citizenship of the non-citizen.