We are calling for submission to our FOCUS: Identity Politics, Power and Resistance in the 21st Century.
Cover artwork: Justice, Cliff Hengst, Clarion Alley Mural Project, 2018
As the world struggles to adapt to COVID-19 crisis, health systems, social and economic institutions, and global supply chains we are obliged to depend on, are pushed to the verge of catastrophic collapse. Consequently, the crisis has exposed and amplified the systemic discrimination and inequalities that underwrite our global systems. They have begun to manifest materially, and often disproportionately in marginalized spaces in both the Global North and South. Resistances to authority1, power2 and extinction3 are growing, often in tandem with an increase in authoritarian-style4 politics. The recent murder of George Floyd5 by a police officer in the United States has been a watershed moment. Embodied by consequent protests around the world, the George Floyd incident has resurfaced questions about institutionalised racism, discrimination, identity, and power relations.
In our new Focus Identity Politics, Power and Resistance in the 21st Century, we aim to interrogate and challenge new and enduring forms of structurally discriminatory practices and critically engage with identity politics, resistance movements and their contemporary relationships with power. We seek global contributions that help unpack and advance new ideas, insights and knowledge(s) about these issues.
On Identity Politics and Resistance
The emergence6 and conceptualizations7 of ‘identity politics’ as a mode of resistance is intimately connected with the awareness that some social groups are oppressed on account of their identity. One’s identity (as a woman, Black person, or Queer, for example) can make one more vulnerable to exploitation, violence and stereotyping than members of more privileged social groups. Through attempts by marginalised identity groups to assert themselves and fight against various oppressive forces globally, identity politics has become a primary feature of resistance in the modern world. But our understanding of identity will remain incomplete without acknowledging that it does not naturally occur but is socially constructed8 — increasingly toward political goals.
Some Marxist9 critics of identity politics have argued that identity based struggles for greater rights or recognition threaten to hinder efforts to forge class based solidarities against capitalism. Several early radical feminist groups claimed that women’s oppression under the patriarchy formed the very core of all forms of oppression, and that by incorporating other identities they’d be diluting their movement (Shulamith Firestone’s famous quote: ‘racism is sexism extended’). As a result of this problematic formulation, when Black women raised their voice against existing racist attitudes within the feminist movement they were criticised for attempting to break women’s solidarity. In response to these hegemonic impulses that identified one primary oppressive structure underlying all human suffering, the theory of intersectionality becomes pertinent by arguing that oppression cannot be reduced to one fundamental type. Indeed, the sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos argues that contemporary forms of domination are characterised by three pillars of the modern world: capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy. Identity politics are commonly expressed through the formation of resistance movements that take aim at these pillars of domination in their various manifestations. However, these resistances have often been disconnected, focusing on one or another but seldom on all three. As Santos asserts, “The tragedy of our time is that domination operates as a coordinated totality, while resistance against it is fragmented”10.
Identity groups, in and of themselves, are not antithetical to class based or feminist organising but merely present an opportunity for forging greater solidarities based on the mutual understanding that the struggles against racism, sexism, extinction, islamophiba, homophobia, alienation, transphobia, or castiesm can, and must, inform each other.
As modern subjects, we believe it is important to critically occupy identities and engage in social movements that make rights-based, political, economic and social demands, and call attention to pressing or obscured issues and sparks new debates. We can see such critical engagements in identity politics globally within Black and other communities of color, LGBTQ+, Indigenous peoples, feminists, and immigrants and migrants. However, demands for societal structural change may fail to materialize if we are reluctant to critically acknowledge11 and constructively address the internal disunity and the social constructed-ness inherent to identity positions.
Identity groups often aim to articulate their identity in ways that legitimize them in the eyes of law and culture. One example is the hard-won legalization of same-sex marriage in several countries in the last decade. However, through the legislation process, gay and lesbian individuals were simultaneously incorporated into an institution that is heavily policed by social, cultural, and familial norms, and which already harbors its own institutional strictures. Another example is the feminist movement, which has often been critiqued for lacking intersectionality, and prioritizing the interests of middle-class and cis women. Women who engage in sex work, transgender women and other marginalised women, for example, have historically been omitted from feminist movements globally, despite the movement’s universalizing rhetoric of transnational ‘sisterhood’.
These examples show that the success of one identity-chartered movement does not lead to a totalizing societal liberation or emancipation. In the broader sense, same sex marriage did not disrupt oppressive legal systems in society or fundamentally reform the institution of marriage; the feminist movement has not brought all women equality and rights. Identity positions have internal fractures, demarcation limits, and can sometimes prevent solidarity and unified struggles across identity groups.
The attempt here is not to delegitimize identity politics. But rather, by acknowledging its constructed, dynamic nature, we seek to highlight both its radical potential and its limitations. We encourage writers to engage with the fractured and contested terrain of identity politics in the 21st century and critically look at the seeming victories and losses experienced by resistance movements, as well as how these movements intersect with political and economic flows of power.
Power Structures in the 21st Century
Moreover, what is also crucial to understand is that one cannot conceive identity politics and resistance as separate from the structures of power in which they are embedded. Borrowing from a Foucauldian idea of power as relational12, this focus aims to engage with the diffuse nature of power as it joins with identity politics and weaves the relations between political and economic institutions and civil society at a global scale. The 21st century stands as a singular historical moment in which the creeping tendencies of totalitarianism exist alongside a growing chorus of resistance movements13 as they continue to gain momentum14. It reinforces the idea that power is indeed everywhere at once, used for various ends and enacted through various means.
This Focus would like to understand these nuances of the exercise of power in the context of identity politics and collective resistance as they manifest in the 21st century: through which means is power used by different groups, to what ends, and why?
The 21st century is relevant in the context of the aforementioned discussion because it can be understood as a period on which to reflect on the socio-political and economic structures of different societies as they have ‘developed’ in the modern era. The phenomenon of capitalist globalisation that began in earnest in the post-World War II period gradually made in-roads as anti-colonial independence movements swept across the globe, and later in post-socialist countries after the fall of the Soviet Union. There was not only an inflow of capital but also of people, their cultural practices, and ideological and technological upheavals leading to disruptions in many different ways of life. This global trajectory figures significantly into the ways identities are formed and mobilised today, being further amplified by greater accessibility to information and the technological means to communicate on a global scale. Such processes lead us to this particular global moment of emergent identity politics, and they interact with the global power structures codified over the last 500 years of colonisation and capitalist development. Therefore, we welcome works that deal with the historical and contemporary trajectories of power, identity and resistance that have shaped the 21st century and contribute towards imagining the future.
What this Focus aims to Achieve
By curating a multimedia collection of essays, stories and experiences, we want to provide a space that encourages critical engagement with issues of identity politics and resistance movements to chart the course for future activism. Through a writing and reading exchange, we hope to initiate an impetus for self-reflection, and create a platform for intercultural dialogue, correspondence and debate, where transnational student solidarity can be developed.
We are now seeking submissions in the forms of articles, essays, book reviews, papers, poetry, artworks, and multimedia expressions to offer critical, philosophical, socio-cultural, historical, and artistic insights.
We welcome writers from countries across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America. You are encouraged to (but not limited to) write on the following topics and perspectives:
- On identity politics and othering: the historicity and contemporary critique of othering related to gender and sexuality, caste, class, race, tribe, religion, language, within and across borders, and the critique of these theories.
- Critique of discriminatory and violent Institutions and practices: police systems, laws, totalitarian states, majoritarian politics, economic systems, educational institutions, family, marriage, prisons, mental asylums, technology and tech spaces; and their practices such as exclusionary nationalism, supremacist ideologies, xenophobia, prejudices, anti-semitism and intolerance in online spaces, othering and representation in media, and other forms of subjugation.
- On social movements and the tactics of protesting: accounts and analyses of action, organization and strategies from civil society and student-led movements and protests.
Send us your work
- Use “Focus submission_title_name ” as the subject in the email
- Attach media (pictures, audio, video, etc in high resolution) content separately in your email
- Send to our email at email@example.com
- Learn about our submission guidelines for more detailed references
- Last submission is due September 30th
- We will notify you via the email we receive your work, so please make sure that you check your email regularly and respond timely. If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to contact us: criticaledges(at)gmail.com.
The new Focus will start publishing from August, 2020, on a rolling basis.
Critical Edges Focus Editorial Team
- Aljazeera News: Hong Kong: 600,000 Cast ‘Protest’ Vote Against New Security Law
- Bloomberg News: How Climate Divestment Won Converts With Deep Pockets
- Fridays For Future: Homepage
- Oregon Live: Portland protests continue tuesday as federal officers use gas
- New York Times: America’s Reckoning on Racism Spreads Beyond Policing
- Youtube: Anarchopac – What is Identity Politics?
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Identity Politics
- ThoughtCo: Social Constructionism Definition and Examples
- In Defence of Marxism, Nov. 15th, 2015: Marxism vs Identity Politics
- Santos, B. de S. (2020). Toward an aesthetics of the epistemologies of the south: Manifesto in Twenty-Two Theses. In B. de S. Santos & M. P. Meneses (Eds.), Knowledges Born in the Struggle: Constructing the Epistemologies of the Global South (1st ed., pp. 117–125). Routledge.
- Global Social Theory: Critical Constructivism
- Powercube: Foucault – power is everywhere
- The Telegraph: A year of resistance – The global spread of civil disobedience
- International Center on Nonviolent Conflict: Lessons of Uprisings Around the World – The Present Moment, and Possible Future