Reith Lectures 2016 – Kwame Anthony Appiah on identities

This year’s Reith Lectures by Kwame Anthony Appiah on “Mistaken Identities” feel very timely, given the state of the world in 2016.  Here they are, in listening order, with links to hear them via the BBC website:

  1. Creed – Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah says we overestimate scripture in our view of faith
  2. Country – Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah argues against a mythical and romantic view of nationhood
  3. Colour – Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah argues for a world free of racial fixations
  4. Culture – Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah asks us to give up the idea of western civilisation

For me, there’s a missing element from this series – gender – but still, these four 1-hour episodes are well worth a listen, and they take you on a gallop through a lot of ideas in a (relatively) short time.

Identity politics has long been part of my life, way before I knew it had a name.  Here are some thoughts about the differences between identities and labels:

  • Chosen by me / applied by others
  • Describing / defining
  • Empowering / limiting
  • One among multiple dimensions of identity / single attribute excludes other dimensions of a person
  • Co-exist with other attributes (but see also intersectionality) / conflict or compete
  • Flexible and dynamic / static and confining

Who decides the extent and meaning of the identities or labels applied to oneself or others?  For example, who decides who counts as a Muslim, or a feminist, and speaks for them?  And how did something so individual and personal seem to be suddenly so public and political?

It’s lovely to know that the world can’t interfere with the inside of your head.

– Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

And it’s even better to know that you can expand your experience of the world, try on ideas, and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before shouting at strangers on the internet by reading loads and loads of books from a library…

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Optimistic pessimism | Laura's Dark Archive

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