In this episode, Emily Dupree and I had the pleasure of talking to Linda Martín Alcoff (Hunter College & CUNY Graduate Center) about identity. Click here to listen to our conversation.
Let’s start with some terminology. ‘Identity’ means different things in different contexts, but in this episode we use it to mean something like: ‘the social demographic a person belongs to.’ So for example, my race is part of my identity, my disability status is part of my identity, and my sexual orientation is also part of my identity. Our guest wants to understand how the social group a person belongs to can affect the way they experience the world. For instance, if I came from an upper middle class background, my opinion of schools as an institution might turn out to be pretty high, because the only school I ever experienced was the well-run, well-funded one that I went to. On the other hand, if I grew up poor in a neighborhood with struggling public schools, I might associate school with bad experiences, because for me, going to school always came packaged up with bad experiences.
Linda Martín Alcoff argues that a person’s identity influences the way they think of the society and the world, but also that it does not exhaustively determine that person’s outlook. The person’s individual psychological quirks and the social status they occupy are both factors that affect the way they think of things politically. Furthermore, in order to really understand the influence a person’s social status has over their outlook, we have to look at the history the social groups to which they belong.
Join us this month as we discuss politics, identity, and identity politics! (As it were.)