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Session Overview
RN29_08a_P: Social Theory and Identity Politics
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Gallina Tasheva, University of Muenster
Location: PE.1.38
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: E, Level: 1.

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On identity politics and its discontents: between gender recognition and disembodied communities

Sofia Aboim

University of Lisbon, Portugal

One of most challenging debates in terms of gender identity politics revolves around the impacts of queer movements, which take a position against all forms of category-based politics for their essentialism. Such influence would undermine the possibilities of a politics targeted at specific subaltern groupings, as stressed by critical insights stating the impossibility of a politics without subjects. This problem was addressed by Spivak with the notion of strategic essentialism. For her, identity, subjectless it may be, should be nonetheless strategically mobilized for political reasons. This implies a denial of identity as the basis of politics insofar as subjects are not pre-existent to politics, and reinforces the idea that politics can construct identities as strategic positionings against the dominant. Overturning the traditional ontology of the political, embodiment is only possible if a political programme precedes subjects. On the basis of a reflection on the construction of the category transgender, we reflect on the effects of disembodied strategies for doing a politics of identity alienated from subjects. Such strategies do not elude reifications. Instead, imaginaries of disembodied communities are a powerful result of theorizations against identity, although paradoxically unable to avoid identitarian strategies. The contradictions of such disembodied forms of politics will be discussed through the example of contemporary transgender communities as political imaginaries vis-à-vis the strategies designed for representation in the public sphere. Such strategies for claiming rights illuminate the extent to which the renewed production of normativities challenges ontological formations of the political and the social.

Identity, self-deception and rationality in the XXI century.

André Folloni3, Massimiliano Ruzzeddu1, Mariella Nocenzi2

1Università Niccolò Cusano di Roma, Italy; 2Università La Sapienza di Roma, Italy; 3Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná, Brazil

The object of this work is the electoral success that so-called ‘populist parties’ have had all across the Western world.

The most common explanation for this phenomenon is economy-related: allegedly, the middleclass and the other social strata that globalization has impoverished, have dropped endorsing left-winger parties on behalf of state-nation centered politics; in fact, those parties claim for abandoning any supranational institution, closing the borders to any form of migration and stopping free international trade. Within this framework, the electoral behavior of European and American middle-classes appears to be a case of (economic) rationality. However this explanation shows inadequate: in fact, although populist politics, if implemented, could grant no economic growth for the middleclass; nevertheless, populist forces seem not loose consent, even when their limits become evident.

Therefore, it is possible to assess the cause of the wide success of populist parties is not rationality: the hypothesis is that populism meets emotional needs rather than economic interests, boosting a process that many scholars, like Nelking, have defined as “self-deception”. In fact, populist representation of reality attributes to globalization all the diseases of contemporary societies, alleviating the angst related a society turning more and more liquid.

This work will set a model of investigation for next years’ social phenomena, where two different approaches to social life will be in contrast: capitalist rationality -more and more global and abstract- and the need for acknowledgment (Taylor)- more and more spread around large masses.

Cultural trauma, habitus and other traces of the past

Csaba Szalo

Masaryk University, Czech Republic

Social theory includes the tradition of reconnecting understanding and explanation. I will focus on two recent attempts to reconfigure the terrain of these epistemic modes as these were articulated in cultural sociology (Isaac Reed) and critical hermeneutics (Hans Kögler). While offering distinct interpretive strategies, that of interpretive explanation respective dialogue, both perspectives stress the crucial role of our relationship to otherness in the development of human sciences. My critical reading thus problematizes the experience of intelligible difference paying particular attention to various traces of the past we have to deal with in our everyday life.

Narcissist Ironic Nostalgia and Pseudo Meta Reflexivity. The Hipster Figure as a Post-Theoretic Projection in Late Capitalist Culture and Theory

Pär Engholm1,2

1Uppsala University, Sweden; 2Stockholm University, Sweden

This paper examines the fugitive and now waning character of the hipster as emblematic of some central contentious aspects of contemporary forms of identity formation, both individual and collective. As a figure of both highbrow aesthetic elitism and of quasi-plebeian irony, occupying a cultural frame in which a quest for authenticity is anxiously pursued, she impersonates the dilemmas of a late modern, yet neo-traditionalist world, characterised by the coexistence of ironic awareness of the social and cultural situatedness and arbitrariness of identity and cultural values and the rise of nostalgia and neo-traditional social and political sentiments. The hipster, or, generalised: the ironist, stands as the epitome of the hyper-reflexive postmodern man, at the same time ironically embracing as well as seriously rejecting the labelling process in which (s)he is both the subject and object.

In order to understand this contemporary paradox, we need to reject relativist postmodern theories and formulate a realist constructionist theoretical framework, an integrated perspectivism, in which intersubjective forms of narrativity and individual tales and forms of internal conversation are situated within a practical order. Contemporary identities must be seen as continuous dramaturgical accomplishments, but in setting where the backstage is missing, where the scripts are constantly changing and the narratives are full of lacuna, discontinuities and ambiguities and the plays are cast in a neo-narcissist society in which cognitive and practical dissonance has become normalised and institutionalised; transgressing the differentiated modern social space with multiple personalities and opening for a generalised compartmentalisation of the self as a collective form of coping with the simultaneity of irony and seriousness, detachment and commitment.

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