Current debates in the public arena and in Cultural Studies are often less concerned with class than with gender, 'race', ethnicity or religion. This becomes particularly evident when we focus on the politics of identity. The concept of identity politics, following Griffin, "references a political disposition and political arguments founded on particular traits or interests concerning a specific group of people. […] [I]dentity politics has been concerned with making political claims based on group identities that share these traits or interests." Identity politics, although it may be politically empowering, has also been criticized for its homogenising effect on those defined as groups and for viewing identity as fixed rather than as a process and for its inherent essentialism. The political tactics behind identity politics have been referred to as strategic essentialism by Spivak – acting based on a shared identity in the public arena in the interests of unity during a struggle for equal rights (cf. Chandler and Munday).
The course provides an in-depth discussion of the relevant terms gender, 'race', ethnicity and religion, considers the absence of class from most of the current debates, looks at the potentially adverse and divisive effects of identity politics in multicultural societies like Britain, and introduces the concept of intersectionality (the idea that the forms of identity mentioned above do not work independently but interact to produce particularized forms of social oppression).
A Reader with a selection of thematically organised texts and the list of topics for term papers will be provided at the beginning of the course.