Subjects of capitalism: identity politics, class, poverty (dissertation project)
Dissertation in Sociology
First supervisor: Prof. Markus Kienscherf
Second supervisor: N/A
Third supervisor: N/A
My PhD project asks whether identity politics and class politics are as incompatible as they are sometimes claimed to be in social theory. At this stage, my project is developing along three lines. First, I am researching the hostile reception of identity politics on the US academic left. More specifically, I have read and analyzed the principal accounts of the American political-intellectual development in the second half of the 20th century that claim that identity politics has fragmented and neutralized class-based politics and movements. I attempt to uncover and analyze the assumptions that these authors have about what identity politics is and does, and to assess their citational, affective, and narrative practices. Building on this assessment, the second strand of my project explores the theoretical possibility of an identity politics of class. Drawing my understanding of identity politics from its formulations in Black feminism, postpositivist realist approaches, and theories of identification, I want to research the extent to which it can incorporate issues of material deprivation and inequality. My theoretical project also aims to account for the vernaculars of class and class identification in the US and will be complicated by employing another conceptual category, relatively undertheorized when it comes to political subjectivity and identity: poverty. Finally, I also intend to utilize this theoretical apparatus to explore the possibility of an identity politics of class in recent social movements. Specifically, I want to assess whether either Occupy, especially through the slogan “we are the 99%,” or the political-economic demands of the Black Lives Matter movements could be considered to be examples of an identity politics of class, transcending the false dichotomy which has been imposed in much progressive American discourse.