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MC: Doris Bachmann-Medick: Identity – A Contested Category

When May 05, 2015
from 10:00 to 02:00
Where Phil I, GCSC, R. 001
Contact Name
Contact Phone (+49) 0641 99 30053
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Although the height of the identity debates in the 1980s and 1990s seems to have passed, the category of identity is still, surprisingly, flourishing. Contemporary discussions depict this “umbrella term” as a problematic, highly contested (but still useful?) category, whose analytical scope as well as positive and negative evaluations will be explored in this class. To what extent can we even make the worn-out identity category productive for our own work again?

We should distinguish between identity as a category of practice and organization of social movements, processes of migration, etc., and identity as an analytical category of research. An aim of this class will be to differentiate this ubiquitous term in a critical way. Our discussions will go beyond questions of personal identity towards issues of collective identities – of agent-oriented versus ascription-oriented forms of identity and identification. We will try to develop (new) alternative terms that might work in functionally equivalent ways while avoiding the pitfalls of the identity concept. In doing so, taking up problems from our own projects could be stimulating.

This class session on May 5th consists of three parts

In part 1, an introductory lecture on different approaches to the identity concept will be presented – including cross-disciplinary insights into contemporary problem fields and discourses of political, ethnic, cultural, gender-oriented and migrational identity.

In part 2, we will discuss a critical, thought-provoking and seminal essay: “Beyond ‘Identity.’”

In part 3, our focus will be directed towards discussing connections between this topic and our respective dissertation/research projects, stimulated by previously submitted questions from the participants.


The class will end with an even stronger focus on the applicability of identity concepts for our own work in an additional output-session on June 30th.


Text for discussion: Rogers Brubaker/Frederick Cooper: “Beyond ‘Identity’”, in: Theory and Society, vol. 29, no. 1 (February 2000), 1-47.

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