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Week Five, Alcoff

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 10 months ago


Week Five, Linda Martin Alcoff, Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self


Part One: Identities Real and Imagined



Introduction – Chapter 2                                Kate


 1. What is the precise nature of the intervention that Alcoff sees herself making with this book?  Who is she engaging with and what is her goal?

 2. What are the key points of departure between Alcoff's perspective on identity and Fraser's?  Whose account do you find more compelling?  How might these different accounts function to enable or constrain different political possibilities?  In other words, what is at stake?


General questions to consider: How, if at all, is Alcoff's argument similar or complementary to Young's?  Is there something explicitly feminist about attention to context?





Chapter 3                                                      Nathalie


 The various philosophical critique of identity point to a fear of the power of the Other as providing the missing premise to make the argument concerning the acceptance of the Other within the Self compelling.  Although as Linda Alcoff suggests, such fear is disguised under somewhat well articulated views regarding first person and second/third person relationships, it is nevertheless visible in these various philosophical critiques of identity and of selfhood.  

a)    What are we to make of such visible fear?  

b)    In Sartrian terms, what can be so dreadful about the look of the Other?  

c)    In Hegelian terms, is the possibility for a reciprocal recognition between the master and the slave determined to end in a dead battle?  

d)    Would sexual differences change the outcome of both Hegel’s and Sartre’s well-scripted metaphorical fear of the Other?

(This is the second time around I am posting my question)



Chapter 4                                                      Kristin


What do the hermeneutic tradition, phenomenology, and Mead’s social psychology contribute to Alcoff’s understanding of of identity?  In light of critiques that warn against such dangers as essentialism and separatism, do you find this to be a convincing account of identity?  Why/why not?    



Part Two:  Gender Identity and Gender Differences


Chapter 5 and 6                                          Lisa


At the top of page 149, Alcoff writes, "the concept of positionality allows for a determinate though fluid identity of woman that does not fall into essentialism: woman is a position from which a feminist politics can emerge."  Might we have good reason to be concerned about her use of the singular here?  She is clearly attentive to differences among women, but can her concept of positionality avoid the essentialism/nominalism trap she describes?


What should we make of her discussion of divergent male and female relationships to biological reproduction (172+)?  Is what she's doing here really so different from the "old fashioned" nature/culture distinction?



Part Three:  Racialized Identities and Racist Subjects


Chapter 7, 8 and 9                                       Hillary


What, for Alcoff's purposes, is race?  Is it useful politically or philosophically for her applications in these chapters?

On page 194, Alcoff advocates unveiling the habitual as a political move to increase awareness of "perception."  Do you see her examples functioning in this way?  What do you think of her choice of case studies?  How do they function (or not) for her?  For you as a reader?

What do you think of double consciousness as a way to transform whiteness and challenge racism through creation of disequilibrium?



Part Four:  Latino/a Particularity


Chapter 10 and 11                                       Evan


At the end of Chapter 10, Alcoff introduces the term “ethnorace” in order to try to combat aspects of the race/ethnicity binary (246). Why does she do so? What role might the word “ethnorace” serve, and what problems does she hope to combat by using it? How successful do you think such a word might be in doing what she needs it to do?


In Chapter 11, Alcoff points out the American tendency to reduce all racism to the oppression of black people. Does Alcoff’s deconstruction of the “black/white paradigm” seem successful? Does her example of application, looking at racism in college admissions, overlook or obscure any issues (262-3)?




Chapter 12 and Conclusion                           Hagit


In chapter 12 Alcoff is looking at different attitudes to the identities of mixed race persons, from the imagery of the melting pot, through assimilation, to nomadic identity, and to a new race.  What are the problems that she sees in each approach?

In the end of the chapter she presents three options for representing mixed race identities. What will be the concerns of a conversation about interpretations of mixed race identity that is based on those options?



What is the relationship between critical race theory and movements such as liberalism, Marxism, feminism? What are the problems she sees in formulating an overcastting theory and what are the needs for such theory?

Is she successful in presenting a theory that deals with generalizing difference? how does the concept of philosophy change In a philosophy that accepts difference?









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