Mar 16


When a social movement is oriented towards the expression of identities (or needs, desires, etc), the work of constituents (those whose identities, etc are the focus of the work) and adherents (those whose identities, etc are not the focus, perhaps because they are already secure) will differ. Constituents are expressing their own identities, and adherents are trying to help them to do so, without their own identities coming much into question. Do such differences matter? There is, after all, a common task, even if the participants are differently positioned with respect to it.

In this section of my research project Other People’s Struggles, I am trying to work out when and why these differences matter and when and why they don’t. My theory with respect to identity work is that it turns on authenticity and provenance. Sometimes the endorsement of an ‘outsider’ adds to the provenance of an identity claim. This can happen, for example, when the outsider attests, on the basis of her expertise, that the presumed identity is valid. But at other times the ‘outsider’, lacking the constitutive experiences and feelings, cannot possibly endorse the identity claim. He cannot speak in the name of others. Indeed, the requirements of provenance are reversed. His speaking now requires endorsement by the constituents.

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