MULTICULTURAL SOCIETIES AND
K. ANTHONY APPIAH
CHARLES TAYLOR is surely right that much of modern social and political life turns on questions of recognition. In our liberal tradition we see recognition largely as a matter of acknowledging individuals and what we call their identities. We also have the notion, which comes (as Taylor also rightly says) from the ethics of authenticity, that, other things being equal, people have the right to be acknowledged publicly as what they already really are. It is because someone is already authentically Jewish or gay that we deny them something in requiring them to hide this fact, to pass for something that they are not.
As has often been pointed out, however, the way much discussion of recognition proceeds is strangely at odds with the individualist thrust of talk of authenticity and identity. If what matters about me is my individual and authentic self, why is so much contemporary talk of identity about large categories—gender, ethnicity, nationality, “race,”1 sexuality—that seem so far from individual? What is the relation____________________