During, S. “Debating Identity”. In Cultural Studies. Rutledge, 2005, (145-152)
In this chapter from his book Cultural Studies, During attempts to tackle the theme of identity and identity politics. Through an examination of how the meaning of identity presents itself over the years, During draws the strong link between identity, society and politics.
The identity of someone, who someone is, can be defined in terms of a trait – physical features, beliefs, genealogy etc. – which essentially places individuals into a group of people who share the same trait. This ‘means that identity is won at the price of reducing individuality’. During argues that this type of classification is determined socially, the individuals don’t have the power to choose how they are identified.
It is this realisation that develops During’s theory that societies, identities and individuals coexist and don’t exist independently of each other. During believes it incorrect to ‘contend that individuals comprise nothing but their identities’. Identities are a part of the mediation between individuals and society.
During claims that individuals don’t have a single identity but many identities based on traits such as skin colour, socio-economic status, gender etc. It is quite possible that individuals feel more strongly connected to a particular identity than to others.
Identity politics are motivated by ‘the desire for access, liberty and fair, unprejudiced treatment’. Since the early sixties, groups of specific cultural and social identities have sought recognition or respect.
One political difficulty that During discusses is the principle of exclusion. In some cases, identities ‘tend to be structured by reducing or demonising particular others’. One example he provides is feminism where the pressure was to view all men as sexists.
During raises some interesting points about identity, identity politics and the close relationship to society. In fact, to a great extent it is society that contributes to an individual’s identity. However, while he describes the classification of identities into the different groups, I believe he fails to acknowledge and stress how it’s the combination of the different identities of an individual that result in an overarching identity, a unique identity. Two girls of the same age, race, socio-economic status, religious background etc., fall into the same identity groups based on these. But it is the combination of these factors plus more that contribute to the identity that affects the girls’ tastes, which clothes they put on in the morning to express their identity and individuality.