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Identity Complex

Making the Case for Multiplicity

Michael Hames-García

Publication Year: 2011

In seemingly exhaustive arguments about identity as a category of analysis, we have made a critical error—one that Michael Hames-García sets out to correct in this revisionary look at the making and meaning of social identities. We have asked how separate identities—of race, class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality—come to intersect. Instead, Hames-García proposes, we should begin by understanding such social identities as mutually constituting one another.

Grounded in both theoretical and political practices—in the lived realities of people’s experience—Identity Complex reinvigorates identity as a key concept and as a tool for the pursuit of social justice. Hames-García draws on a wide range of examples to show that social identities are central to how exploitation works, such as debates about the desirability of sexual minority identities in postcolonial contexts, questions about the reality of race, and the nature of the U.S. prison crisis.

Unless we understand precisely how identities take shape in relation to each other and within contexts of oppression, he contends, we will never be able to eradicate discrimination and social inequality. By analyzing the social interdependence of identities, Hames-García seeks to enable the creation of deep connections of solidarity across differences.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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pp. 1-7


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p. vii-vii

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pp. ix-xvii

Taking a cue from legal scholar Patricia Williams, I should probably introduce this book by introducing myself, its author. The questions the book considers, after all, matter to me for many personal reasons, although I believe them to have a broader significance than merely their importance for me. Let me begin, however, by introducing the subject of the book itself. In ...

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1. Who Are Our Own People?

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pp. 1-37

I have never assumed identity to be a simple matter, and, in my own life, I have always treaded haltingly through the tangled thicket of class, gender, race, and sexuality. For example, as an assistant professor, I had the good fortune to connect with a senior white male colleague who shared some of my interests in teaching in prisons and together we worked to offer classes ...

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2. How Real Is Race?

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pp. 39-67

Few would deny that social identity has become a primary means for political action within liberal democracy. However, many bemoan this fact, and “identity politics” has become a pejorative, frequently denoting at best an unproductive approach to social change—as, for example, in Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s 2009 confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate.1 ...

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3. Are Sexual Identities Desirable?

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pp. 69-111

On May 11, 2004, Federico Mérida, twenty-one, shot and killed Falah Zaggam, seventeen. According to newspaper reports, Mérida—a Mexican American from North Carolina, a husband and father, and a private in the U.S. National Guard—stood watch with Zaggam, a private in the Iraqi National Guard, on a military base near Tikrit, in northern Iraq. While ...

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4. Do Prisons Make Better Men?

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pp. 113-150

Almost everyone in the United States has at one time or another either told or heard a joke about prison rape. No one doubts the presence of same-sex rape in men’s prisons and many people accept it as inevitable. Television writers Aaron McGruder and Rodney Barnes even chose to make the fear of it an object of extended parody in the fifth episode of ...

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Conclusion: Reflections on Identity in the Obama Era

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pp. 151-156

In 2009, Barack Hussein Obama became the first president of African descent in the history of the United States. Like many left-leaning voters, I saw my own vote for Obama as largely symbolic. I did not expect him to pursue a political agenda significantly more progressive than that of President Clinton nor did I hold any particular faith in the power of ...

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pp. 157-160

This book has taken me fourteen years to write, and in many ways it con-stitutes an extended response to the questions I first went to graduate school seeking to address. Indeed, the first draft of the essay that became chapter 1 of this book began as a graduate seminar paper in 1995 for a class at Cornell University with Satya Mohanty and Richard Boyd. Having ...


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pp. 161-184


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pp. 185-214


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pp. 215-223

E-ISBN-13: 9780816678310
E-ISBN-10: 0816678316
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816649860

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011