Institute director delivers the 4th annual Gillian Rose Memorial Lecture

October 21, 2023

The director of the Institute for the Humanities had the honour to give the 4th Gillian Rose Annual lecture in London.

Identity Politics: Dialectics of Liberation or Paradox of Empowerment?

Over the past two decades, identity politics has exercised a startling influence within progressive circles in the Anglosphere both within the university and the broader public realm. Moreover, it has been taken up into the agendas of putatively liberal and nominally social democratic parties. During Hilary Clinton's presidential campaign, for example, she repeatedly used the term ‘intersectionality'. However, the concept of identity politics is still widely misconstrued. This lecture reflects on the origins and conceptual and political meanings of the idea.  It poses the question, ‘Is identity politics best viewed as embodying a genuine dialectic of emancipation, or as what, in her 1996 collection Mourning Becomes the Law, Gillian Rose called an aporetic "paradox of empowerment"?' Put differently, does identity politics aim at fundamental social transformation or does it more simply represent a shift in what we might call the ‘organic composition' of elites within capitalist societies?

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