Why Identity Politics Is Not the Answer: The Moulinex Reflex

By Manji, Irshad | Herizons, Spring 1997 | Go to article overview

Why Identity Politics Is Not the Answer: The Moulinex Reflex


Manji, Irshad, Herizons


Since childhood, I have known that belonging takes some bending. As an adult, I have learned that power lies with those who decide how much you must bend before you are allowed to belong. You can bend until you are blue in the face, but without recognition of your efforts--without the right to belong--you will continue being a label; "Muslim Lesbian Feminist," as I am repeatedly tagged. In contemporary parlance, reducing individuals to aspects of their physical portfolios is called "identity politics." It is the belief that any one of our biological dimensions--sex, colour, ethnicity, (dis)ability, sexual orientation, age and, by extension, class and religion, provide a sufficiently solid foundation on which to form a community. More than fostering community, identity politicians often attempt to secure a political advantage for that trait which distinguishes their community. Beware the implications for democracy. In its benign stage, identity politics can help us see through the platitude that ours is a meritocracy which rewards individuals for who they are and what they have achieved, not for who they know and what they have inherited, be it money, genitals or pigmentation. But being double-edged, identity politics too readily sweeps the unique truths about each of us under racial, sexual, economic and other generalizations. When that occurs, our individual dispositions and contradictions are obliterated for the sake of collective coherence. Ethnic cleansing anyone? Much of the world wades in the blood sucked by those who decree that individuals can have only one defining identity, a single space to which they must remain loyal or be cast out as traitors when lucky, corpses when not. Although Canada is nowhere near Croatia (geographically or politically), our identity politicians sometimes raise the spectre of the Balkan minefield. Quebec sovereigntists paint their nationalism as strictly territorial, but by denying Aboriginal people their own hopes for territorial independence--by insisting that First Nations be part of the same political state as the French-speaking nation--Quebec sovereigntists are actually asserting the dominance of one ethnicity over another. Whether practiced by Quebec sovereigntists or by advocates of Aboriginal self-government, whether it happens murderously or just militantly, when the externalities of our nations masquerade as windows into our individual souls, we are simplified. We are run through a strainer of assumptions and reduced to a bland pure. In that context, identity politics might be better termed the "Moulinex Reflex." This near-mechanical impulse to dice, slice and chop human beings into easily digestable quarters, or blend them into a uniform pulp, removes the choices to refine our perceptions of ourselves and others, which is the crux of belonging. At its democratic best, the Moulinex Reflex lets us choose which label we would prefer to be preserved in--not whether we would prefer to be bottled into one at all. Thus, I sympathize when cultural studies scholar John Fekete assails identity politics as a "new primitivism". The Trent University professor, a former social activist, has no time for women-of-colour caucuses and Aboriginal assemblies because, he argues, identity politics "has no time for humankind". But Fekete should frown as fiercely on the not-so-new primitivism to which women of colour and Aboriginal people are responding: racism and sexism. Throughout his searing 1994 polemic, Moral Panic, Fekete presumes that the only folks who play identity politics are the self-confessed oppressed--women, natives, people of colour, gays and lesbians, the poor, the disabled; in short, the captives of an overt groupthink. He fails to see that those who enforce common sense can be equally big on group bonds and biological one-upmanship. In their 1996 bestseller Boom, Bust & Echo, demographer David Foot and journalist Daniel Stoffman insist that age and population trends can explain two-thirds of everything. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Why Identity Politics Is Not the Answer: The Moulinex Reflex
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.