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HECKERT, Jamie.- Maintaining the Borders: Identity & Politics.
Article published on 27 January 2006

by r-c.
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Identity is the process of creating and maintaining borders, creating different kinds of people. This keeps the world packaged in tidy little boxes. These boxes, in turn, are necessary for the violence and domination of hierarchical societies. There cannot be masters or slaves, bosses or workers, men or women, whites or blacks, leaders or followers, heterosexuals or queers, without identity.

Social movement [1], both past and present, often attempts to use identity as a tool of liberation. Movement based on gender, sexual orientation, class, ethnic and ability identities all have some success in challenging hierarchy and oppression. By no means do I mean to diminish the impact of past and present activism. Personally, my life would have been much more difficult before feminist and gay liberation/equality movement arose. I argue that identity politics is inherently limited in its ability to challenge hierarchy because it depends upon the same roots as the system it aims to overthrow. ’The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. [2]

Does that mean we should all be the same?

Notes :

[1Following Bell Hooks, I refer to social movement, rather than maintaining that boundaries can be placed around identifiable ’social movements ’.

[2See Audre Lorde, "The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House", in Sister Out-sider: Essays and Speeches 110, 112 (1984), who took the title from an old US civil rights adage.


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