Constructing the Nation: A Race and Nationalism Reader

SUNY Press
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Philosophers and social theorists of color examine how racism can creep into defensive forms of nationalism.“What does it mean today to be an ‘American’ when one does not represent or embody the norm of ‘Americanness’ because of one’s race, ethnicity, culture of origin, religion, or some combination of these? What is the norm of ‘Americanness’ today, how has it changed, and how pluralistic is it in reality?” — from the Introduction

In this volume philosophers and social theorists of color take up these questions, offering nuanced critiques of race and nationalism in the post-9/11 United States focused around the themes of freedom, unity, and homeland. In particular, the contributors examine how normative concepts of American identity and unity come to be defined and defended along increasingly racialized lines in the face of national trauma, and how nonnormative Americans experience the mistrust that their identities and backgrounds engender in this way. The volume takes an important step in recognizing and challenging the unreflective notions of nationalism that emerge in times of crisis.

“The idealized and abstract nation-state may be a familiar topic for political investigation, but the actual white nation and its racial state are territory far less explored. This stimulating set of essays—ranging from a reading of post-9/11 children’s literature to an analysis of the racialized aesthetic of white nationalism—provides a valuable and eye-opening introduction to the racial construction of the American polity.” — Charles W. Mills, author of The Racial Contract

“A smart and unique set of theoretical reflections on the constitutive role of race and ethnicity in the post-9/11 U.S. American political imaginary, this book should find its place on the bookshelves of everyone interested in questions of citizenship and belonging in a multiracial U.S. polity.” — Chandra Talpade Mohanty, author ofFeminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity
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About the author

Mariana Ortega is Professor of Philosophy at John Carroll University. Linda Martín Alcoff is Professor of Philosophy at Hunter College, City University of New York. Her many books include Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self and Identity Politics Reconsidered (coedited with Michael Hames-García, Satya P. Mohanty, and Paula M. L. Moya).

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Additional Information

SUNY Press
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Published on
Oct 23, 2009
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Philosophy / General
Philosophy / Political
Philosophy / Social
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Nationalism & Patriotism
Social Science / Minority Studies
Social Science / Sociology / General
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In the heated debates over identity politics, few theorists have looked carefully at the conceptualizations of identity assumed by all sides. Visible Identities fills this gap. Drawing on both philosophical sources as well as theories and empirical studies in the social sciences, Martín Alcoff makes a strong case that identities are not like special interests, nor are they doomed to oppositional politics, nor do they inevitably lead to conformism, essentialism, or reductive approaches to judging others. Identities are historical formations and their political implications are open to interpretation. But identities such as race and gender also have a powerful visual and material aspect that eliminativists and social constructionists often underestimate. Visible Identities offers a careful analysis of the political and philosophical worries about identity and argues that these worries are neither supported by the empirical data nor grounded in realistic understandings of what identities are. Martín Alcoff develops a more realistic characterization of identity in general through combining phenomenological approaches to embodiment with hermeneutic concepts of the interpretive horizon. Besides addressing the general contours of social identity, Martín Alcoff develops an account of the material infrastructure of gendered identity, compares and contrasts gender identities with racialized ones, and explores the experiential aspects of racial subjectivity for both whites and non-whites. In several chapters she looks specifically at Latino identity as well, including its relationship to concepts of race, the specific forms of anti-Latino racism, and the politics of mestizo or hybrid identity.
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