Identity politics and social movements

From Baripedia

We will focus on this theme for two main reasons:

  • with the evolution of the state, the state is increasingly interested in population, particularly in the context of the emergence of the welfare state and the functions it should provide. Political geography has focused on how political strategies and decisions influence the character of population distribution and control. Some authors believe that it is one of the last remaining powers of the state. One of the tools to control the population is identity. It is a multidimensional concept.
  • at a time when the authors of political geography began to diversify their interests in the 1960s and 1970s, after a long focus on the state as a political actor, this transformation came at a time when social movements were emerging in which identity played a crucial role.

Summary[edit | edit source]

The political geographer is a speech. If we speak of the political geographer as a discipline is precisely because an overview of the evolution of this sub-discipline helps us to understand key concepts from a varied perspective in order to give us the tools to apply them to today's problems. We must recognize that concepts that we talk about a lot are fairly old concepts, concepts that have changed over time and that have meanings that change over time. To be able to better understand a problem today, it is important to understand that these concepts have not always been understood in the same way.

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We see that there are groups emerging. The first with the philosophers of the Enlightenment, a second with the initiators of political geography, a third which participated in the diversification of objects and interests from the 1970s. This emergence of the discipline of political geography thought is also linked to historical events, notably the First World War and the fall of the Soviet Union. These events provide the world around these thinkers, they provide the material that these thinkers will use to build this theory. To understand why Ratzel focused so much on the state, it is because at the time of writing his work, the state was the main actor. Depending on national origin, one realizes that for the most part, political geography served the interests of powerful nations.

Along the evolution of the discipline, we can see an inversion of causality. From a naturalistic perspective, most of the initiators of political geography thought were interested in the ways in which biophysical forms determined politics. It was the impact of policies on space facts.

This causality will be reversed in the 1970s, we will focus more on spatial effects. Political facts to know how the organization of politics, political decisions, public policy will fit into space, how the spatial distribution of equality or inequality can be explained through political organization.

There has also been a shift in discipline from the universal to the state. The initiators of political geophagy who were almost exclusively interested in the state. There is also an evolution of analytical postures, starting with a naturalism that predominates among the initiators of political geography and that evolves towards rationalism and postmodernism. There is an evolution of methods in political geography. Until the beginning of the 20th century, these were rather normative philosophical argumentation methods. More and more, there will be empirical scientific argumentation and especially with the scientific revolution in the social sciences in the 1960s. There has been an evolution in the scales of analysis. Not only will we be talking about the individual, the city, the region, the cross-border or even the global, but we will also begin to interpret these scales as a social construct. More and more attention will be paid to the interaction between these different scales.

The focus is now on political actors other than the State that may have spatial implications. The State will not disappear, but for the most part, these diverse political actors will be in relation with the State having a strong influence on the way in which political facts are inscribed in space.

Identity, identity politics[edit | edit source]

There is a growing political importance of identity issues. Identity is the basis of democracy today. How criminalization of identity and identity theft is more important. Talking about personal identity and collective identity refers to the question of identity as something that can be chosen or imposed. Behind the interpretation of identity, there are political dynamics.

Identities can be multiple. Unchangeable identity is a naturalistic approach which is the notion that one's identity is one's uniqueness. Contextual identity means that there is a set of identities that one can have and the different identities are mobilized and activated according to the context. It is the construction of a problem that then activates and mobilizes a certain identity for political ends. Identity can be either a passive expression or an active performance. Identity politics is when differences in collective identity become a source of conflict or an object of effort to bring about social transformation.

Identity spaces[edit | edit source]

In political geography, we are particularly interested in dimensions in order to talk about identity spaces. The foundation of most identity theories has strong links to space within the framework of an "I" and an "Other/Othering" that can be spatiality. The idea is to designate someone as someone else in order to better identify oneself. In Orientalism published in 1978, Edward Said shows how Westerners created the Orient as a concept and as a region. In Under Western Eyes published in 2003, Chandra Mohanty became interested in northern feminism that would have created an image of southern women losing their capacity.

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The distribution of these identities can be seen everywhere. For example, European identity finds spatial variations that can be linked to politics. Political geography examines the spatial qualities of identity politics and the use of space to mobilize support for the political rights of specific identity groups.

Social movements[edit | edit source]

Cette désignation trouve son origine dans les mouvements identitaires des années 1960. Il s’agit de mouvement que les théories d’alors ne pouvaient pas expliquer. Ce n’était It was not possible to deal with identity issues, but on the basis of traditional cleavages, we could not explain these identity movements. The birth of identity (social) movements in the 1960s and 1970s took place around feminism, "Black Power", the defence of homosexual rights, political Islam, religious law, but also ethnoregionalism. The difficulties are to understand them through standard categories.

What links these movements is that they are networks of organizations and individuals, we do not speak of a unitary institution although in many movements professional organizations have been created that even dominate the movements, but we speak of movement as a set of organizations and individuals explaining also why there is a diffuse geography of the movement. These movements will use non-traditional tactics such as demonstrations, boycotts, guards, civil disobedience. These strategies are outside the traditional tools of analysis since they involve mobilizing identities that are subject to injustices in public policies of the day. For most geographers interested in social movements, they are interested in urban movements.

Environmental Justice[edit | edit source]

Environmental justice is a movement that emerged in the United States in the 1980s. Racial and environmental issues have already been the subject of political debate, but before the 1980s they were not really linked. There is a specific context in which this movement emerged following the Toxic Waste and Race in the United States report published in 1987 which coined the term "environmental racism".

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On this map, the black areas indicate the places where the African-American and Hispano-American population rate is above the country's means of control. This report has shown the link between the positioning of toxic waste sources and minority housing in the United States. This report will launch the environmental justice movement.

Toxic Waste and Race in the United States[edit | edit source]

Percent people of color living near hazardous waste facilities.jpg

Twenty years on, there is little progress and new problems due to budget cuts in law enforcement, weakened public health protection, but also the dismantling of laws protecting against environmental racism.

This graph shows the percentage of the African-American population is Hispanolatino who live near toxic sites. Almost 50% of the colour population is within one kilometre of danger zones.

Environmental Justice in the South[edit | edit source]

In the countries of the South, there was the Bhopal disaster in India in 1988, the privatization of water in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2000, which was a water war, the Seringueros in Brazil and the Green Belt Movement in Kenya to combat deforestation and soil erosion. It is a series of movements where there is a link between inequality of populations and access to resources that can be understood as an example of environmental justice.

Environmental Justice and Sustainable Development[edit | edit source]

Concerning sustainable development, Banchon distinguishes two initiatives in "top-down" initiatives on the "paradoxical" position of sustainable development, namely :

  • discourse: "three pillars" and equity between generations and societies;
  • practice: places social justice second for a vision of sustainable development "that does not call into question the foundations of the world economy or the fashion of rich countries".

Environmental justice is moving towards environmental ethics. For Rawls, inequality becomes injustice when it does not benefit everyone, especially the poorest. For Harvey, socio-ecological inequalities are viewed as forms of oppression.

Occupy Wall Street[edit | edit source]

Forms of environmental oppression[edit | edit source]

Young in Justice and the Politics of Difference published in 1990 and Harvey in Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference published in 1996, according to Blanchon, identifies several forms of environmental oppression:

  • the non-recognition of the social and cultural specificities of social groups, and in particular the singularity of their relationship with the environment ;
  • political powerlessness in environmental matters, that is, the inability to make one's voice heard;
  • the appropriation of an environmental good by a social group and/or the deprivation of access for the victim group ;
  • ecological devastation penalizing some social groups more than others.

These forms of environmental oppression are linked to identity and can give rise to a policy of identity action within the framework of environmental justice. The perspective of environmental justice is that the consequences of bad environmental practices are mostly focused on specific populations on the basis of identity traits.

Occupy Wall Street (OWS)[edit | edit source]

Occupy Wall Street is a peaceful protest movement against the abuses of financial capitalism that begins in mid-September 2011 with a demonstration in the Wall Street area, then a camp in Zuccotti Park. This movement is inspired by the Arab spring as well as the Indignés movement in Europe. Expands across the United States on October 9. On October 15, during the first world day of protest for true democracies, the Occupy movement spread to about 1500 cities in 82 countries. It is a group of individuals who use non-traditional tactics demonstrating mainly around anti-capitalism. The demonstrators were expelled from Zuccotti Park in mid-November.

OWS – géographie politique urbaine[edit | edit source]

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There are interesting aspects in the perspective of the symbolism of places that revolves around space. Some places of symbolic importance include Wall Street in Zuccotti Park and Ground Zero. This par was initially called Liberty Plaza until 2006 as the protesters renamed Liberty Plaza. The POPS idea was "privately owned public space". Two churches opposed support for this movement, Trinity Church and Judson Memorial Church.

OWS – global financial policy geography[edit | edit source]

With the Occupy Wall Street movement, one can ask oneself what are the objectives? How to reach them? There are reasons as to the uncertainty of the purposes. We can consider that it is this heterogeneity of the demonstrators that is a force allowing an export of the diffusion model, but which was at the same time a weakness because the identity that could be mobilized by the protagonists was too diffuse for the movement to become sustainable in the same way as other movements were able to do. The demands that are emerging around a profound critique of capitalism evoked the fact that in the transformation of the welfare state, there are benefits that the state is no longer able to provide.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Identity politics occurs when differences in collective identity become a source of conflict or an object of effort to bring about social transformation. Individual and collective identities often have a spatial dimension. Political geography addresses the spatial qualities of identity politics and the use of space to mobilize support for the political rights of specific groups.

Identity politics played an important role for the social movements that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. The environmental consequences of identity politics become the target of mobilization for environmental justice. The spatial dimensions of recent social movements are becoming both more concrete and more diffuse, illustrated by Occupy Wall Street. Themes repeat themselves: the state as a powerful political organization does not leave, the transformation of states from above and from below gives rise to new social and spatial inequalities and injustices.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]