Identity trouble: Disidentification and the problem of difference

Philosophy and Social Criticism 29 (6):655-680 (2003)
Abstract
This paper uses the conceptual apparatus of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy to tackle a foundational issue in the philosophical literature on group identity, namely, the problem of difference. This problem suggests that any appeal to a collective identity is oppressive because it imposes a shared identity on the members of a group and suppresses the internal differences of the group. I develop a Wittgensteinian view of identity that dissolves this problem by showing the conceptual confusions on which it rests. My Wittgensteinian view of identity tries to establish two main theses: first, that identity is bound up with difference and presupposes heterogeneity; and second, that the solidarity of identity groups, far from being obstructed by differences, actually requires diversity. Drawing from gender and sexuality studies, I use the mechanism of disidentification to show how there can be shared identities and identity-based solidarity without the erasure of differences. Key Words: community • difference • ethnicity • familial view • gender • identity • race • sexuality • solidarity • Wittgenstein.
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