In the Shadow of Gaslight: Reflections on Identity, Diversity, and the Distribution of Power in the Academy
20 CUNY Law Review 2, 467 (2017).
15 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2017 Last revised: 18 Nov 2017
Date Written: October 17, 2017
This essay explores identity and diversity in the Academy through the work of feminist philosopher, Sara Ahmed. It makes two interventions. First, it sketches the use of identity politics from the 1980s and 1990s as a tool of resistance against assimilation and erasure to its current uses sometimes as a tool of discipline within minority groups. Second, it raises the problem of the cooptation of identity by institutions to maintain the status quo. In the hands of institutions and as a metric for progress, diversity can mask ongoing subordination and create doubt in the minds of minorities about whether what they experience really is racism. However, given that little has changed with regard to the dominant racial hierarchies and now, in a time of overt racial hostility, minorities have less reason to suffer such doubts. Thus, the essay ends with a reminder that identity continues to be an important tool against the pervasive, normalized, and constitutive nature of white identity and dominance. Yet identity is no longer a good proxy for a political commitment to anti-subordination and so should be used with caution.
Keywords: Race, diversity, minorities, identity, critical race theory
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