Michel Foucault’s formative years included the study not only of history and philosophy but also of psychology: two years after he took license in philosophy at the Sorbonne in 1948, he took another in psychology, and then obtained, in 1952, a Diplôme de Psycho Pathologie . From his earliest years at the Ecole Normale Superieur he had taken courses on general and social psychology with one of most influential psychologists of the time, Daniel Lagache, who was attempting to integrate psychoanalysis (...) with clinical methods.(Eribon 1991, 42) Foucault’s studies included experimentation and clinical instruction in which patients were presented in an amphitheatre just as in the days of Charcot. For several years after he had received his Diplôme, Foucault continued research in psychopathology, observing practices in mental hospitals, reportedly sometimes volunteering in experiments himself. He purchased the material required to administer Roschach tests, subjecting numerous friends to the inkblots, and became, when it was founded, the honorary president of the French Rorschach organization. Foucault’s first books were on the topic of the psychological characterization of madness and the development of clinical medicine, and his last books addressed the development of psychological norms within the establishment of modern prisons as well as within an increasingly scientific approach to sex. Thus, he worked at the intersections of philosophy and psychology throughout his life. Nonetheless, Foucault reported feeling an intense aversion to psychology no less than to philosophy.(Sheridan 1980, 5) Foucault’s oeuvre is almost exclusively focused on particular knowledges in the human sciences, especially those aspects which pertained to psychological theories of human behavior, capacity, and normative functioning. His historical approach to these, and his emphasis on the role of discourse, is readily reminiscent of Thomas Kuhn’s similarly historical approach to scientific method with its emphasis on the role of paradigms and the untranslatability of paradigm dependent objects.. (shrink)
We have been teaching gender issues and feminist theory for many years, and we know that there is certainly a diversity of views among women, and men, about what counts as feminist or as good for women. Some may see a competent woman running for V.P as inevitably a step forward for women's equality. But consider this.
In her book, Real Knowing (Cornell UP, 1996), and in many articles, she argues, in opposition to many post-structuralists and pragmatists, for the preservation of a notion of truth as partly referential albeit inextricably tied to a context. Furthermore, and in connection to this, she also critiques pure proceduralism in the normative dimension, defending instead a notion of normativity that is substantive but context related, thus, not universal or absolute.
Apparently, Latinos are “taking over.” 1 With news that Latinos have become the largest minority group in the United States, the public airwaves are filled with concerned voices about the impact that a non-English dominant, Catholic, non-white, largely poor population will have on “American” identity. Aside from the hysteria, Latino identity poses some authentically new questions for the standard way in which minority identities are conceptualized. Are Latinos a race, an ethnicity, or some combination? What does it mean to have (...) hybridity as the foundation of an identity, as is the case for mestizos and most Latinos? The term “Latino” signifies people from an entire continent, sub-continent, and several large islands, with diverse racial, national, ethnic, religious, and linguistic aspects to their identity. Given all this internal diversity, is “Latino” a meaningful identity at all? Latino identity is, with few exceptions, a visible identity, for all its variability, and I will argue that unless we pay close attention to the way in which Latino identity operates as a visible identity in public, social spaces, our analyses of its social meanings and political effects will be compromised. In the following three chapters, I will address three issues that Latino identity raises, issues that have political ramifications but that also require us to think about the philosophical assumptions at work behind common ideas about race and ethnicity. First, what is the relationship between Latino identity and racial categories? Second, how do Latinos fit into, and challenge, the black/white binary thinking about race that has long dominated public discourse in the U.S.? And third, what does it mean to have a mixed identity, for Latinos or for other mixed race groups? Throughout, we will have to pay close attention to the especially significant heterogeneity of this particular population. Does such diversity threaten identity or does it reveal that identity has never presumed uniformity? Only recently has the concept of pan-Latino, or generic Hispanic, identity overtaken the older identity monikers of “Cuban,” “Mexican,” “Puerto Rican,” etc. in significant national discourses across the United States.. (shrink)
First, we should separate out the two distinct realms of discourse that are operative in this scandal: the formal legal one, from the informal public one. Each realm has different standards of judgment, and plays a different role. The formal, legal realm is organized to determine the legal guilt of innocence of the individuals accused, while it should be clear that the public realm—that diffuse and loose amalgam of both formal and informal communications—cannot determine individual legal guilt or innocence. First, (...) because it is not privy to all the facts (secrets can still be kept, even in these days of hyper-surveillance), and second, because the public realm of discourse is subject to the influence of various media which is in the business of selling stories. Almost everyone today understands that media reports of all sorts are edited, even when they are upholding the most scrupulous of journalistic standards. (shrink)
Political concerns about the importance of social identity are voiced equally across left, liberal, and right wing perspectives. Moreover, the suspicion of identity is not relegated to the discourse of intellectuals but is also manifest in the mainstream as a widespread public attitude, and not only among white communities.
This was published in Cultural Critique (Winter 1991-92), pp. 5-32; revised and reprinted in Who Can Speak? Authority and Critical Identity edited by Judith Roof and Robyn Wiegman, University of Illinois Press, 1996; and in Feminist Nightmares: Women at Odds edited by Susan Weisser and Jennifer Fleischner, (New York: New York University Press, 1994); and also in Racism and Sexism: Differences and Connections eds. David Blumenfeld and Linda Bell, Rowman and Littlefield, 1995.
This volume is an act of talking back, of talking heresy. To reclaim the term “realism,” to maintain the epistemic significance of identity, to defend any version of identity politics today is to swim upstream of strong academic currents in feminist theory, literary theory, and cultural studies. It is to risk, even to invite, a dismissal as naive, uninformed, theoretically unsophisticated. And it is a risk taken here by people already at risk in the academy, already assumed more often than (...) not to be uninformed and undereducated precisely because of their real identities. Of course, identity is today a growth industry in the academy, across the humanities and social sciences, influencing even law and communication studies. The constitutive power of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and other forms of identity has, finally, suddenly, been recognized as a relevant aspect of almost all projects of inquiry. However, as I shall discuss in this essay, simultaneous to this academic commodification of identity is an increasing tendency to view identity as politically and metaphysically problematic, some have even said pathological. So on the one hand the theoretical relevance of identities has become visible, while on the other hand many theorists are troubled by the implications of the claim that identity makes a difference. Increasingly, then, the attachment to identity has become suspect. If identity has become suspect, identity politics has been prosecuted, tried, and sentenced to death. To espouse identity politics in the academy today risks being viewed as a member of the Flat-Earth Society. Like “essentialism,” identity politics has become the shibboleth of cultural studies and social theory, and denouncing it has become the litmus test of academic respectability, political acceptability, and even a necessity for the very right to be heard. In contrast, there has been a noticeable thaw regarding the term essentialism. What was once perfunctorily denounced at the start of every paper in feminist theory has recently been tentatively examined by a few theorists for possible signs of validity.. (shrink)
Justice Sonia Sotomayor was vilified for arguing that one's social identity can contribute positively to judgment or public reason. This paper considers and expands on Sotomayor's arguments, showing that identity is relevant to snap judgments and to sensation transference that affects how speakers are assessed. It further develops a hermeneutic account of identity that can make sense of its epistemic relevance without foreclosing individual variation.
In this paper I make a preliminary analysis of Western (or global North) discourses on sexual violence, focusing on the important concepts of “consent” and “victim.” The concept of “consent” is widely used to determine whether sexual violence has occurred, and it is the focal point of debates over the legitimacy of statutory offenses and over the way we characterize sex work done under conditions involving economic desperation. The concept of “victim” is shunned by many feminists and nonfeminists alike for (...) its apparent eclipse of agency. Putting these concepts into a global framework sheds light on their limitations. Bringing in the debate over the concept “honor crime” reveals contrasting assumptions about the nature of sexual violence. The comparative analysis used in this paper shows how we can avoid universalizing from specific frameworks, but also how we can learn from the discourses elsewhere toward developing an account of commonalities across contexts. Ultimately I argue that in applications to sexual violence, “consent” has intrinsic limitations, “victim” has context-based dangers, and “honor crime” makes both correct as well as incorrect assumptions. (shrink)
In the heated debates over identity politics, few theorists have looked carefully at the conceptualizations of identity assumed by all sides. Visible Identities fills this gap. Drawing on both philosophical sources as well as theories and empirical studies in the social sciences, Martín Alcoff makes a strong case that identities are not like special interests, nor are they doomed to oppositional politics, nor do they inevitably lead to conformism, essentialism, or reductive approaches to judging others. Identities are historical formations and (...) their political implications are open to interpretation. But identities such as race and gender also have a powerful visual and material aspect that eliminativists and social constructionists often underestimate. Visible Identities offers a careful analysis of the political and philosophical worries about identity and argues that these worries are neither supported by the empirical data nor grounded in realistic understandings of what identities are. Martín Alcoff develops a more realistic characterization of identity in general through combining phenomenological approaches to embodiment with hermeneutic concepts of the interpretive horizon. Besides addressing the general contours of social identity, Martín Alcoff develops an account of the material infrastructure of gendered identity, compares and contrasts gender identities with racialized ones, and explores the experiential aspects of racial subjectivity for both whites and non-whites. In several chapters she looks specifically at Latino identity as well, including its relationship to concepts of race, the specific forms of anti-Latino racism, and the politics of mestizo or hybrid identity. (shrink)
The politics of ethnic names, such as ‘Latino’ and ‘Hispanic’, raises legitimate issues for three reasons: because non-political considerations of descriptive adequacy are insufficient to determine absolutely the question of names; political considerations may be germane to an ethnic name’s descriptive adequacy; and naming opens up the political question of a chosen furture, to which we are accountable. The history of colonial and neo-colonial conditions structuring the relations of the North, Central and South Americas is both critical in understanding the (...) political condition of Latinos in the USA and relevant in current colonial relations. Key Words: ascriptive class segment • colonialism • ethnic names • Hispanic • Latino • neo-colonialism • political contestation. (shrink)
“It is certainly true, as nominalists have been concerned to acknowledge, that judgements about kinds are determined in part by human interests, projects, and practices. But the possibility that human interests, projects, and practices sometimes develop as they do because the real (physical or social) world is as it is suggests that this sort of dependence is not by itself an argument against essentialism.”.
This paper aims to contribute toward coalitionbuilding by showing that, even if we try tobuild coalition around what might look like ourmost obvious common concern – reducing racism –the dominant discourse of racial politics inthe United States inhibits an understanding ofhow racism operates vis-à-vis Latino/as andAsian Americans, and thus proves more of anobstacle to coalition building than an aid. Theblack/white paradigm, which operates to governracial classifications and racial politics inthe U.S., takes race in the U.S. to consist ofonly two racial (...) groups, Black and White,with others understood in relation to one ofthese categories.I summarize and discuss the strongestcriticisms of the paradigm and then develop twofurther arguments. Together these argumentsshow that continuing to theorize race in theU.S. as operating exclusively through theblack/white paradigm is actuallydisadvantageous for all people of color in theU.S., and in many respects for whites as well(or at least for white union households and thewhite poor). (shrink)
In this paper I explore white attempts to move toward a proactive position against racism that will amount to more than self-criticism in the following three ways: by assessing the debate within feminism over white women's relation to whiteness; by exploring "white awareness training" methods developed by Judith Katz and the "race traitor" politics developed by Ignatiev and Garvey, and; a case study of white revisionism being currently attempted at the University of Mississippi.