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The Social Constructionist Challenge to Primacy Identity and the Emancipation of Oppressed Groups: Human Primacy Identity Politics and the Human/'Animal' Dualism

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  • Kay Peggs


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    In a recent issue of this journal Mike Homfray asserted that social constructionism challenges emancipatory politics based in essential conceptualisations of identity. Thus for Homfray the concept of identity as associated with the pre-deconstructed subject is central for the emancipatory goal of oppressed groups like the lesbian and gay movements. In this paper I offer a distinction between radical identity politics that seeks to liberate oppressed groups, and what I have called primacy identity politics in which primacy identity is used to preserve the subjugation of those who are oppressed. In so doing I put forward a challenge to Homfray's somewhat wholesale rejection of the capacity for a critique of identity to work for emancipatory politics by focussing on primacy identity politics rather than on radical identity politics. In making an argument for the deconstruction of identities for emancipatory purposes I refer to my work on the human oppression of nonhuman animals. In this work I turn my attention away from those who are oppressed to the oppressors because this transfer of attention shows how useful the deconstruction of identity could be for the emancipation of oppressed groups. My examination of discourses used by the pro nonhuman animal experimentation lobby group Pro-Test shows how primacy identity politics can effectively be challenged by a social constructionist critique of essential identities and thus, contra Homfrey, I conclude that the deconstruction of identities can strengthen emancipatory causes.

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    Article provided by Sociological Research Online in its journal Sociological Research Online.

    Volume (Year): 14 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 1-3

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    Handle: RePEc:sro:srosro:2008-57-2
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