American Studies Association 2018 CFP - Identity Politics

deadline for submissions: 
January 21, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Eli Erlick - University of California, Santa Cruz
contact email: 

Call for Panelists

2018 Annual Meeting of the American Studies Association – “States of Emergence”

Panel: Identity Politics


In 2016, political theorist Mark Lilla published “The End of Identity Liberalism” in The New York Times. He quickly declared the emergence of identity politics to be responsible for the election of Donald Trump. His article was widely regarded with contempt from organizing communities that considered it dismissive of groups targeted by the state. However, his writing was also emblematic of the liberal response to emergence: during a state of emergency, the only concern is that of stabilizing the nation. By this very epistemological thread, identity serves many important purposes in conceptualizing American heterogeneity.


In frames like that of Lilla, identity obstructs the larger political telos of Democracy. For others, such Kimberle Crenshaw (who helped popularize the term Identity Politics in her 1991 article “Mapping the Margins”), it is the foundation by which assemblage is possible. This panel questions how identity politics may be in a state of emergence. While identity has always already existed, modernity is often characterized by identities frequently emerging, proliferating, and rapidly collapsing. New Museum curator Johanna Burton describes identity politics as “a paralysis within discourse” through this dialectic. The emergence of white nationalist identities online similarly parallels a greater recognition of how identity politics become co-opted by conservatism. While engaging in the politics of identity, white nationalists deny they care about identity politics. How may these two phrases differ in meaning to different groups? How may paralysis act as a way of understanding the naturalized identity politics of white nationalism?


Within queer theory, identity has likewise long been critiqued from every angle and boundary. To José Esteban Muñoz, the introduction of identity politics into the Humanities was a way in which identity could be used to silence critique and universalize whiteness. Correspondingly, queer studies scholars such as Gayle Salamon consider the destruction of identity politics altogether to be the objective of poststructuralist theory. To others, such as Dean Spade, Heather Love, and Roderick Ferguson, the potentiality of identity has been co-opted for the purposes of “totality”: universalizing whiteness, neoliberalism, and assimilationist politics.


In thinking of identity politics we must additionally understand the multifarious ways of defining, conceptualizing, and determining identity. Identity has historically been theorized in countless forms: consciousness, diversity, being, heterogeneity, difference, or power. How might the emergence of a more tangible rhetoric of identity affect social, political, or epistemological movements? How can identity occlude experience, existence, or emergence itself when used broadly? How can it benefit communities through assemblage?


This panel will present contrasting and sometimes conflicting papers in order to establish a range of thought on the polemical topic. We are specifically looking for original research on how the emergent rhetoric surrounding identity politics has been mobilized in the contemporary period. While we are open to a broad range of interdisciplinary submissions, we are particularly interested in papers that address the following topics:


  • Fascism and the (re)emergence of white identity politics
  • Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Area Studies’ relationship to identity
  • Post-identity identity-based scholarship
  • Assemblage theory
  • Minoritization
  • Defining identity politics
  • Abolition
  • Queer/transgender theory and identity
  • Phenomenological perspectives on identity
  • Appropriation, reparation, and affirmation
  • Conceptualizations of difference, consciousness, and being
  • Cultural implications of the emergence and proliferation of identities
  • Digital identities
  • Cyborg feminism
  • Intergenerational politics
  • Identity politics in the 2016 elections
  • Identity within art
  • Campus politics
  • The history of identity politics
  • States of exception
  • Identity and performative theory


If you would like to present on this panel, please send a 250-350-word abstract along with a short CV to Eli Erlick at by January 21st, 2018.


We are additionally seeking a panel chair. If you are interested in chairing and not presenting, you may also send your CV to the aforementioned email address.