Heike Delitz (Otto-Friedrich-University Bamberg, Germany)
Collective Identities: Impossible and Necessary
The talk aims to introduce you in a sociological view on collective identity which would be as distant as possible. Within sociological, and also within anthropological theory since the 1980s, ‘collective’ notions increasingly are accused of being essentialist, of being ontological or metaphysical; of homogenizing and fixating the fluid and heterogenous social reality. Those critiques concern even the most basic concepts of the social sciences, namely the notion of society (beneath all other notions for collectives). The same is true for the notions of culture(s), and of identities. In contrast, only few sociological theories explicitly concentrate on collective identities (in particular Shmuel Eisenstadt’s and Bernard Giesen’s). In general, theories of ‘society’ seem to be seldom within sociological theory today. Against those theoretical tendencies – and in view of the nevertheless virulent societal conflicts around collective identities –, I will firstly explore the arguments against collective notions. Secondly, I will plea for a postfoundational, thoroughly non-essentialist notion of collective identity, taking ‘collective identity’ as impossible as necessary. Finally, I want to reveal the critique of all collective notions – and in particular that of the notions of ‘collective’ and ‘cultural identity’ – as being itself an identity politics, as being based on a particular political imagination of the collective’s unity, identity, and foundation.
Kath Woodward (The Open University)
Changing Identities, Changing Identifications: What is the relevance of the search for certainties?
I explore some of the puzzles of identity and identities, drawing upon my experience of researching and writing about identities, identification and embodied selves especially in the context of sexual politics and social inequalities and relationships between inner and outer worlds, over the last 30 years. One big issue is the claim to certainties which underpin identity politics, however, diverse, fluid and fragmentary those identities may be. The concept still invokes binary logics such as nature and culture, sex and gender, visibility and invisibility. Flesh and bodies are central to the debate and I address the apparent certainties of birth and death as embodied experiences, explored in my recent research with Sophie Woodward, to suggest some ways of making sense of changing identities in changing times.