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Identity politics in deconstruction: Political, philosophical, and ethical investigations

D'Cruz, Carolyn (1997) Identity politics in deconstruction: Political, philosophical, and ethical investigations. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis explores the injunctions and disjunctures effected through relations between politics, philosophy, and ethics by working through various issues and problems confronting discourses of identity politics. These confrontations concern such matters as speaking positions and their relations to the legitimation of knowledge claims; relations between history, power, and the appropriation of political identities; relations between philosophy and politics; and the renegotiation of these relations with regard to a certain space of ethics and justice. Among the cases studied are those concerning the 'authenticity' of Australian Aboriginal identities; the politics of appropriation and subversion in 'queer' commentaries; the epistemological and political status of the category of 'woman' in feminist criticism; and the ethical status of a freedom fighter (Chris Hani) who belonged to the South African Communist Party.

According to a certain structure of identity, the realms of politics, philosophy and ethics are separable from one another, while according to a certain logics of identity politics these realms are inseparable from one another. This thesis argues, however, that these realms are neither separable nor inseparable: they are always being brought into crisis in the formation of emancipatory struggles. While many commentators concerned with the disjunctures of such a crisis have sought to reconcile the irreducibility between the three domains by asserting the primacy of the political, this thesis is concerned with ways in which the privileging of 'the political' can have detrimental effects for the promise of the emancipatory ideal. This is not to undermine the importance accorded to the category of the political, but to pursue what might ironically be the political and ethical costs of refusing to question (via a necessary and difficult detour through the philosophical language of ontology) the privileged status of the political in such movements.

Beginning with Foucault's analytics of discourse, the thesis moves to a consideration of Derrida's critique of the metaphysics of presence. This critique (as argued by way of Derrida's negotiations with Foucault, Nietzsche, Levinas and Marx) raises problems for any notion of identity insofar as the metaphysics of presence infuse all relations between politics, philosophy and ethics, requiring such relations to be continually re-applied and re-worked. While this is to unsettle the structure of identity, it is not to refuse the necessity of politics or the urgency of decisions. On the contrary, the critique of politics opens onto a certain space of justice which pledges the emancipatory promise of identity politics to the promise of a democracy-yet-to-come.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Lucy, Niall
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