Collective Identities. . .

. . . of any kind are a way of diluting one’s individuality in the cud-chewing bliss of a stupidified community.

22 thoughts on “Collective Identities. . .

  1. There’s nothing blissful about participating in groups for the sake of collective identities. For one, there is always a cost or some form of sacrifice required by the superego on the basis of its becoming accustomed to group enforced norms.

    Secondly, the “community” is not all that blissful, but engages in backbiting, threats and all sorts of unpleasant behavior in order to keep its order.

    Communities are enclaves for regressive and stupid outlooks. For instance, an organisation Mike is in is being attacked from the inside by a whole lot of denizens who propound identity politics as the only way forward. They attack others who disagree with them and then claim that others are victimizing them because of their particular identities. I was attacked by one of these who wanted to set up a women’s enclave. Actually, I made a flippant, but good natured comment in support of Mike, and I got put down by one of those who were demanding women should be treated differently, because they had separate problems. She hid behind patriarchal rhetoric by implying that I was a “wife, talking about her husband”, or something of that sort. The deeper implication of it, of course, was that I was simply being an airhead and not funny at all.

    So, I did what any intelligent person would do under such circumstances and decided to use their identity politics ammunition against them. “You are against women per se,” I insisted. I was severely reprimanded for saying that in a private email by a male of the group who had taken on the role of pater. He had a lot of scolding to do. So I replied, (keeping in the vein of identity politics and its poor form of logic): “How can you say that to ME, a woman?”

    After that, I got this private and unhumorous email from pater:

    >>Nice attitude. Good to know that concern for others is high on your list of priorities.

    >>>Who the fuck do you think you are, the Queen of Sheeba? Being a woman doesn’t give you the right to say whatever the fuck you feel like regardless of the consequences for anyone else. What exactly is it about you that makes you think that it does? If you talk shit which you do I call it out. What is it about being a woman that makes you think you’re above being held to account for the consequences of your actions?

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    1. I should say, from this I learned that contemporary identity politics is nothing if non inconsistent. After all, I had only made a few jokes, and I was being charged with something akin to mutiny.

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      1. “Secondly, the “community” is not all that blissful, but engages in backbiting, threats and all sorts of unpleasant behavior in order to keep its order.”

        – Of course! A community not only needs an external Other but also an internal one. There is always a center and the margins. But people gladly pay that price because the burden of individuality is too heavy.

        “Communities are enclaves for regressive and stupid outlooks.”

        – Oh, I adore you. 🙂

        ” Actually, I made a flippant, but good natured comment in support of Mike, and I got put down by one of those who were demanding women should be treated differently, because they had separate problems. She hid behind patriarchal rhetoric by implying that I was a “wife, talking about her husband”, or something of that sort. ”

        – It’s absolutely fascinating how people who insist on these all-female encalves always, and I mean always, turn out to be woman-haters of an especially vicious kind.

        ““You are against women per se,” I insisted.”

        – Exactly.

        “Being a woman doesn’t give you the right to say whatever the fuck you feel like regardless of the consequences for anyone else.”

        – What a sad little fool.

        ” After all, I had only made a few jokes, and I was being charged with something akin to mutiny.”

        – Communities are terrified of anybody who has accepted their individuality.

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  2. Yes, I’ve been fighting with several Argentinean regarding the Islas Malvinas lately. The Kirchner government has revived the issue as some kind of “unifying” battle against imperialism. I couldn’t care less about them, and to talk about an Argentinean nation in the early 19th century is ridiculous. And to be blunt, in a country where you can barely get anyone to move and live in Patagonia, how many Argentineans do you think would be willing to move to those islands? Very few, I am sure.

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    1. I had no idea that the Islas Malvinas thing has been revived. This is too funny. Honestly, I thought that Argentineans had a good sense of humor and wouldn’t be sucked into this nationalist weirdness at this point.

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  3. I think this entry is hopelessly vague to the point of being meaningless. I almost never feel this way about your posts, Clarissa. But I will argue that the communities I belong to are:

    Human being: I am not a cockroach, turkey vulture, ragweed, or even a chimpanzee.

    Mathematician; subcommunity topologist: This inevitably affects how I view the world.

    Professor: I am heavily invested, emotionally, in the furtherance of knowledge and the education of my students.

    Pagan: Arriving at this point was a long hard struggle, I will not give it up. It automatically puts me into a certain community.

    Omnivore: Yes, I am strongly opposed to the people like PETA who want more than anything to deprive us humans of good food. They are simply evil.

    Literature fan: I believe that books are a far superior artform compared to movies; I am contemptuous, a little, of people who feel the oppposite.

    Fundamentalist Grammar nerd: I will never believ that it is OK for anyone to use “they” as a singlular nongendered personal pronoun. The people who do so actually agree with me, unconsciously, since I have never seen anyone write or heard anyone say: “They is…” which would be mandatory if the pronoun were indeed singular.

    There are many others, but I will stop here.

    Communities that I believe you belong to:

    Non burka-wearers: You have also stated that you are opposed to others wearing burkas in cultural settings that do not mandate them, such as here in the U. S. or Canada.

    Professor: (same comment as mine, above)

    Homeschooling opponent: This is certainly a community, even though it is defined primarily by its opposition to another community.

    Unless you define “community” much more precisely, I do not see how this post makes sense at all.

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    1. “Non burka-wearers: You have also stated that you are opposed to others wearing burkas in cultural settings that do not mandate them, such as here in the U. S. or Canada.”

      – The only person I have actually met who shares this point of view is my sister. I don’t think that holding a point of view in common makes “non-burqa-wearing” our identity. It’s just an opinion we share.

      “Professor: (same comment as mine, above)”

      – Do you feel like you have more in common with any given professor than with any given waiter, doctor or bus driver just because you have the same profession? because I really don’t.

      “Homeschooling opponent: This is certainly a community, even though it is defined primarily by its opposition to another community.”

      – Again, the only person I really know who shares my strong position on this is my sister.

      “Yes, I am strongly opposed to the people like PETA who want more than anything to deprive us humans of good food. They are simply evil.”

      – This part I agree with completely.

      The definition of community I use is the one from the dictionary: “A social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.” I don’t see myself as part of any group and I definitely don’t need to feel like I share any characteristics with people I know nothing about other than their label. There are certain characteristics I share with certain individuals. In a community or a collective identity, you never get to meet even a small part of other members. All you can do is imagine similarities and common traits with people you have never met. There are always disappointments at the end of that journey.

      For instance, I have discovered that many of the people who identify as feminists say and do things that are far more annoying and, from my perspective, anti-women than people who never apply the word “feminist” to themselves. So what would be the value of me considering myself not simply a feminist but a part of a feminist community? To belong to that community, I’d need to engage in intellectual and ideological self-mutilation, toning down the aspects of my feminism that the majority of the community does not accept. That would be hugely beneficial to me because my blog is the only fiercely feminist blog I have seen that does not get promoted by popular feminist resources. I’m also a pariah among the Gender Studies people at my school. If I managed to fit in with that community, I could reap all sorts of benefits. I do not, however, see how that can be done without sacrificing at least some part of my individuality.

      As a result, I’m a feminist, a professor, a Ukrainian, a Jew and a Montrealer without any community whatsoever. I am yet to see a community that does not exact an entrance fee in exchange for allowing one to belong. Even those identities that we get by the simple fact of being born a certain way have an admission price. See, for example, yesterday’s discussion of who is not “a real Jew.” Or the endless discussions of how one can be a “real” man or a woman.

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      1. I know personally a lot of homeschooling opponents. They also oppose sending ones children to private schools, since this undermines keeping the quality of the public schools as high as possible.

        As to whether I feel I have more in common with other professors, generally, than people in other occupations, that is a little tricky. I think that, on average, I do, but there are a lot of exceptions in both directions. It is a case of overlapping ranges, but different means/medians.

        I forgot to include Anglophone. This is a collective identity that I cannot do much about, realistically. People who adress me in any other language will have limited success in communicating, though speakers of some languages (Polish, Chinese, French, etc.) will suceed better than speakers of others (Yoruba, Toltec, Arabic, etc.)

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        1. “I forgot to include Anglophone. ”

          – That’s another good example. I’m a Russian-speaker but I moved to a different continent and now go out of my way to avoid other Russian-speakers. When I’m around them, I feel like Alice in Wonderland: all the words they say make sense separately but none whatsoever in a sentence. I don’t think I’d feel more alienated from creatures from another planet than I do from other Russian-speakers.

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  4. My apologies once again. I was conflating communities, which you have previously decried, with collective identities. However, my comment above applies even more strongly to collective identities than to communities.

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    1. That’s OK because the word “community” terrorizes me even more than the expression “collective identity.” In my experience, the moment anybody says this word, it means that I will be asked, exhorted or forced to do things I don’t want to do. The most recent example is the one when we were told that professors would have to sacrifice their weekend for the sake of “community-building activities.”

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  5. “A community not only needs an external Other but also an internal one.” That’s an interesting and insightful remark. Where can I read more about that? Thanks.

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    1. You asked for it 🙂 .

      This is just a small part of my bibliography on collective identities:

      Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of
      Nationalism. 2nd ed. London: Verso, 1991.
      Appiah, Kwame Anthony. The Ethics of Identity. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005.
      Barker, Chris and Dariusz Galasiński. Cultural Studies and Discourse Analysis: A Dialogue on
      Language and Identity. London: Sage Publications, 2001.
      Bauman, Zygmunt. Community: Seeking Safety in an Insecure World. Cambridge: Polity Press,
      2001.
      Billig, Michael. Banal Nationalism. London: Sage Publications, 1995.
      Castells, Manuel. The Power of Identity. Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 1997.
      Cohen, Anthony P. The Symbolic Construction of Community. London: Tavistock Publications,
      1985.
      Côté, James E. and Charles G. Levine. Identity Formation, Agency, and Culture: A Social
      Psychological Synthesis. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002.
      De Fina, Anna. Identity in Narrative: A Study of Immigrant Discourse. Amsterdam;
      Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2003.

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