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“He borrows from her methods, even as he condemns and trivializes their existence.”

November 22, 2016

mann-im-spiegel

Identity studies, like any field of knowledge, warrants critique. Reflection on the value of identity studies is in fact central to the field; it might be said that identity studies is the most self-reflexive of all academic disciplines, its practitioners more willing than those in any other area to examine the limitations of their own analyses. Sadly, Lilla appears to be disinterested in any such conversation.

As one clear example, Robyn Wiegman’s text Object Lessons, an extensive review of identity studies (“identity knowledges”), offers a cogent account of the premises, goals, and tactics of the study of identity toward political ends. In her introduction, she writes: “I explore a range of identity knowledges—Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, Queer Studies, Whiteness Studies, and American Studies—in order to consider what they have wanted from the objects of study they assemble in their self-defining critical obligation to social justice.” What follows is a wide-ranging dismantling of ideas such as diversity, difference, multiculturalism, intersectionality, and even justice as they relate to politics in the United States. What are the limits of the category of “woman” and its contents? How do ideas about identity in the United States fit into international conversations? These are two of many questions she asks, questions Lilla would probably find important.

Despite Lilla’s ignorance about this and related work, he nonetheless appropriates tools of identity studies toward his own ends. It is without irony that he calls for further attention to a “much maligned, and previously ignored, figure,” that of the angry white male. With respect to this supposedly poor, neglected character, Lilla argues that a “post-identity liberal press would begin educating itself about parts of the country that have been ignored, and about what matters there, especially religion.” He thus tacitly mimics the methods of intellectuals such as scholar of Chicana history Emma Pérez, whose book The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History is one of many incisive interrogations of the politics of historical erasure and the exclusion of marginalized groups from official archives. He borrows from her methods, even as he condemns and trivializes their existence.

Read More | “the end of pre-identity nostalgia” | Elizabeth Newton | musicalwork.info