Whereas we commonly talk of having a unitary personal identity (our “personality”), social identity is regarded as a constellation of different and often competing identifications or “cultural negotiations” (Alcoff 2000, 315). Recognition of our multiplicity may not seem as important as resolution of it.
Another answer has been that in place of fiction” and if political appeals based on available social categories reinforce “limitation, prohibition, regulation, control” by addressing “ready-made subjects,” we can subvert identity by revealing it is “ready-made” (1990, 2, 149).
This subversion is what is meant by “performativity,” a concept with enormous impact on American studies, cultural studies, and related interdisciplines.
Personal identity is often assumed to mediate between social identities and make sense of them.
Whereas our social identities shift throughout the day, what allows us to move coherently from one to another is often imagined to be our personal identity, or “who we are”—our constant.
When ascriptions are placed onto individuals and groups by others, and when those ascriptions limit or constrain the myriad personal and social identities one might wish to claim, recognition of our identities no longer seems a mechanism of social justice but rather seems to the social insult.
In the global marketplace, moreover, multiculturalism and a diverse politics of identity always risk reinscription as just another commodity, offering us a “superficial shopping mall of identities” to keep capital ﬂowing (Clifford 2000, 101).The subversiveness of performativity cannot be determined in the absolute, outside of specific practices, acts, and situations.This may account, in part, for why the appeal of performativity as a theory of resistance has proved limited outside of the academy.The call for “a realistic identity politics” is one such attempt to recognize “the dynamic, variable, and negotiated character of identity” (Alcoff 2000, 340, 341) in ways that reposition us toward a more just and equitable world.February 2009I finally realized today why politics and religion yield such uniquely useless discussions.As Ernesto Laclau (1994, 5) argues, how to legitimize and affirm “the proliferation of political identities in the contemporary world” (by whom and under what social practices) has now become “the question that sets the agenda for democratic politics.” On the one hand, then, identity politics has been understood as grounding new democratic possibilities through its reinvigoration of ideals of representation, voice, and self-determination. A ﬂuid sense of identity categories may provide a more positive resolution to the contradiction, since it sees the categories we want recognized as positions we move through in complex, challenging, and changing ways, not as boxes we are stuck in for all time (C. And while it may seem that we are caught between two views of social identity—one of which demands that overlooked and denigrated identities be recognized and affirmed, and another that sees the immutable self as a socially constructed fiction from which we need to free ourselves—the tension between these two strains in contemporary theorizations of identity can be productive.On the other hand, it has also been seen as limiting those possibilities by encouraging narrow solidarities rather than broader identifications. In practice, it can inform a progressive identity politics capable of embracing this tension as its own.On this account, identity is neither something we possess nor something that defines us but is instead an linguistic process of becoming.Whereas identity politics, the politics of recognition, and multiculturalism insist that a lack of affirmation for some identities is a social insult needing rectification, a poststructuralist or deconstructive perspective names identity itself as the problem.Personal identity conventionally arbitrates taste and lifestyle.“It’s just not me,” a potential home buyer says to her realtor.