The poverty of mainstream universalism and exclusive identity politics

Another difficulty concerns the rejection of those experts who do not belong to the group upon which they work. In other words, if a man writes about women, a white author translates something that was written by a Black person, a white university professor lectures on Senegalese history or a rich person plays a poor person in theatre, it should be permissible and legitimate provided that the respective individual has the proper experience, empathy and is qualified to do so. Concurrently, it is imperative that those who are concerned are adequately represented as well which, unfortunately, is frequently not the case.

Last but not least, the class-blindness of identity politics within segments of the new Left leads to an inappropriate analysis of socio-economic structures and power relations. Let me illustrate this through the infamous example of so-called cultural appropriation. A significant number of postcolonial and ‘critical whiteness’ activists and academics get het up when white people wear dreadlocks or ‘ethnic’ clothes, accessories and ornaments.

However, the concept of cultural appropriation somewhat misses the point. The problem isn’t that white people culturally appropriate other people’s things. The crux of the matter is that capitalism is based upon commodification, valorization and commercialization. Thus, anything that can be sold, including “exotic” products and styles are commodified, valorized and commercialized in order to satisfy certain consumer needs and make profits. This alienating and destructive tendency towards commodification and capitalization as well as environmentally disparaging consumerism is accompanied by imperialist and unequal global power relations which implies that the well-to-do – who are predominantly but not exclusively white – have a stronger purchasing power and can therefore afford to buy, commodify, valorize and commercialize ‘exotic’ goods and lifestyles, especially to the detriment of non-white super-exploited laborers and poor POC.

By and large, freedom of expression, including artistic freedom, should apply to every individual and group (from the radical right to the radical left political spectrum), irrespective of subject matter, race, gender, class, and religious beliefs. The right to blasphemy also needs to be protected. Nobody should be disinvited, banned from media platforms or denied the right to speak in public because of his or her opinions. Exceptions to the rule comprise those who advocate death threats, threats of violence as well as extremely inhumane, violent and systematic forms of racist, classist, antisemitic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, ableistic, agist and lookist defamation, hate speech, and the spreading of lies. As the case may be, the definition of what constitute these severe manifestations and articulations have to be examined on an individual basis and should be liable to legal and scholarly discussion and debate.

Furthermore, the issues of marginalization, structural discrimination against the subaltern and underprivileged strata of society, positionality, the lack of recognition, participation, and representation have to be taken seriously. Indeed, that is one of the main merits and take-aways of the heterogeneous movements that, for the sake of simplicity, have been subsumed under the label of leftist identity politics. On the other hand, followers of liberal and new left identity politics often fall short of inclusivity and do not sufficiently consider the political economy of exploitation, class relations, discrimination and oppression. Their exclusion of white (male) allies within the working-class and intelligentsia on equal terms and vice versa is to the detriment of the processes of emancipation. As Karl Marx already pointed out as early as 1844, in his ‘Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’, it is imperative “to overthrow all conditions in which humans are humiliated, enslaved, abandoned, miserable beings”. (translation mine)

Print
Print Share Comment Cite Upload Translate Updates

Leave a Reply

APA
Kaveh Yazdani | Radio Free (2021-12-04T20:28:42+00:00) » The poverty of mainstream universalism and exclusive identity politics. Retrieved from https://www.radiofree.org/2021/03/23/the-poverty-of-mainstream-universalism-and-exclusive-identity-politics/.
MLA
" » The poverty of mainstream universalism and exclusive identity politics." Kaveh Yazdani | Radio Free - Tuesday March 23, 2021, https://www.radiofree.org/2021/03/23/the-poverty-of-mainstream-universalism-and-exclusive-identity-politics/
HARVARD
Kaveh Yazdani | Radio Free Tuesday March 23, 2021 » The poverty of mainstream universalism and exclusive identity politics., viewed 2021-12-04T20:28:42+00:00,<https://www.radiofree.org/2021/03/23/the-poverty-of-mainstream-universalism-and-exclusive-identity-politics/>
VANCOUVER
Kaveh Yazdani | Radio Free - » The poverty of mainstream universalism and exclusive identity politics. [Internet]. [Accessed 2021-12-04T20:28:42+00:00]. Available from: https://www.radiofree.org/2021/03/23/the-poverty-of-mainstream-universalism-and-exclusive-identity-politics/
CHICAGO
" » The poverty of mainstream universalism and exclusive identity politics." Kaveh Yazdani | Radio Free - Accessed 2021-12-04T20:28:42+00:00. https://www.radiofree.org/2021/03/23/the-poverty-of-mainstream-universalism-and-exclusive-identity-politics/
IEEE
" » The poverty of mainstream universalism and exclusive identity politics." Kaveh Yazdani | Radio Free [Online]. Available: https://www.radiofree.org/2021/03/23/the-poverty-of-mainstream-universalism-and-exclusive-identity-politics/. [Accessed: 2021-12-04T20:28:42+00:00]
rf:citation
» The poverty of mainstream universalism and exclusive identity politics | Kaveh Yazdani | Radio Free | https://www.radiofree.org/2021/03/23/the-poverty-of-mainstream-universalism-and-exclusive-identity-politics/ | 2021-12-04T20:28:42+00:00
To access this feature you must login or create an account.