Identity and Identity Politics

… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

Concept description

The Oxford Dictionary (reference below) defines identity as “the characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is” and identity politics as “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.”

Writing in the Washington Post, John Judis (2018, reference below) says that identity is a “result of imagining” but nevertheless “plays an essential role in all of our lives”:

“Identity – the result of imagining ourselves as part of a larger group or cause – invariably plays an essential role in all of our lives. It can contribute to a sense of pride and boost self-esteem; it can even – in the case of an extended family, a religion or a nation – ward off the fear of our own death by allowing us to feel connected to a group or a set of principles that will outlive us.”

Cressida Heyes (2016, reference below) writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“The laden phrase “identity politics” has come to signify a wide range of political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups. Rather than organizing solely around belief systems, programmatic manifestos, or party affiliation, identity political formations typically aim to secure the political freedom of a specific constituency marginalized within its larger context. Members of that constituency assert or reclaim ways of understanding their distinctiveness that challenge dominant oppressive characterizations, with the goal of greater self-determination.”

The Guardian has created a section called Identity politics – The latest news and comment on identity politics, at

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Diversity, Identity, and Rights (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Oxford Dictionary, identity, at, and identity politics, at, accessed 20 December 2016.

Cressida Heyes (2016), Identity Politics, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), at, accessed 29 December 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 10 December 2018.

Image: Basis Soper, The Isolation in Identity Politics, at, accessed 29 December 2016.