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Identity politics

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Increasing cultural and ethnic diversity has seen the rise of ‘identity politics’: the increase in political movements and claims to rights, based on different personal identities, whether that be sexual, religious, ethnic or any other.  However, at the same time, multiple identities and allegiances are increasingly blurring boundaries between different groups and communities. The new Equalities Act focuses on recognizing the multifaceted nature of identiy, and is likely to further influence these issues in the future.

What are the implications?

  • Growth in single issue politics around claims to rights based on personal identity
  • Growing power of the media in influencing policy as it generates or reports single issue campaigns
  • An increasing need for a strategic overview and for bridging and mediation between groups and competing needs
  • A risk of exclusive organisational policies as they seek to raise single issues of identity
  • A risk of discrimination (both positive and negative) as identity politics are increasingly used to gain power and influence
  • Opportunity for equality groups to raise their profile

Moving forward

The rise of use of identity politics makes it easier to raise the profile of an issue either through mobilising your supporters or through the media.

  • Do you provide opportunities for your supporters to become actively involved in your campaigns, in a way that suits them?
  • Do you make the best possible use of the media to promote your campaigns? What new knowledge or skills might you need to do this?

The public’s growing engagement in identity politics could be converted into a range of support (both financial and campaigning).

  • How do you promote your organisation (and campaigns) to potential new supporters?
  • Can you convert your current volunteers/supporters into donors and vice versa?

Identity politics risks excluding individuals and groups of people by focusing on only one issue rather than the diverse range of issues that make up people's identities.

  • How can you make sure your organisation remains multi-faceted in its outlook to people?
  • Do you need to campaign to keep other aspects of identity and social life recognised?
  • Could your organisation work with others using single identity issues in order to provide a stronger voice?

Want to know more?

Belonging

Published by: Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC)

Date: 2007

Format: PDF

What is it? A report examining how identity is formed, and different aspects of social identity which appear to be central to individuals’ sense of belonging in different communities.  

How useful is this?  Although not centring on identity politics specifically, this report presents an interesting exploration into identity as a whole, presenting chapters on the following aspects of identity which the authors conclude to be the main components of social identity:  family & friends; national identity; political identity; race/ethnicity; class; religion; profession and lifestyle.

Other comments:

You can’t put me in a box: Super-diversity and the end of identity politics in Britain

Published by: Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)

Date: 2010

Format: PDF

What is it? Report examining the growth of ‘super-diversity’ and the related decline of identity politics in Britain.

How useful is this?   This report examines the growing belief in Britain of the diversification of diversity; with the recognition that identities are fluid and multi-faceted, made up of many different aspects within people’s lives, which may also change over time.  It argues that in today’s society, the use of single issue identity politics is out of date, and argues that tackling discrimination can only work when its diverse nature is recognised, whilst the traditional way of looking at one issue at a time leads to further and more complex problems.

Other comments:

Obama has got identity politics on the run

Published by: The Times Online

Date: 2008

Format: Web page

What is it? Article examining changes in the global use of identity politics.

How useful is this?  An interesting look at Obama’s win in the 2008 US elections, and what it means for identity politics and its use globally.  Trends in the US are often paralleled in the UK, and this article suggests that the extreme ‘political correctness’ of the 1990s is now past, with people globally embracing multi-diversity and the multi-faceted nature of human beings.

Other comments:

Minorities within minorities: beneath the surface of community participation

Published by:Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)

Date:  2006

Format: PDF

What is it?  A report looking at how different minority groups experience community participation. 

How useful is it?  The report examines how identity effects perceptions and access to community participation, both externally and from within the group.  It concludes that those who have needs which differ from the majority population most need statutory organisations to hear and address their particular needs. 

Other comments:

Last updated at 16:04 Wed 23/Feb/11.

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How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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