Identity Politics

Identity is yet another fuzzy definition in political geography.  Identities become political when dissimilarities among groups fuel efforts to fight for social change.  This phenomenon can be referred to as a ‘social movement.’  In chapter six, social movements are defined as groups of people pursuing shared goals that require social or political change.  Social and/or political change is only necessary when an existing aspect of social and/or political order is opposed, therefore social movements can be thought of as oppositional.  Dissimilarities between groups cause this opposition.  Social movements are informal in that they employ non-traditional ways to attempt to change the existing aspects of the social/political order, which are opposed.  One of these non-traditional attempts at change is protesting, which we spent a lot of time talking about last week.  Therefore, social movements are strongly linked with urban politics because urban areas are symbolic to many social movement groups.  Furthermore, social movements are strongly linked with differences in personal identities because the differences sometimes causing the segregation of certain groups of people are inevitable.  The assimilationist perspective introduced in this chapter is indeed an unachievable utopia.  However, social differences do not only cause oppression, but they also lead to the cultural empowerment of certain groups.  Thus, social movements are born out of both oppression and empowerment.  Chapter six described the underlying geographies of social movements and how they affect the success and/or failure of these movements.  Social groups and identities are influenced by geography.  Also, the resources which aid social movements vary geographically.  Furthermore, geography plays a crucial role in social movements because these movements can be enacted at a local, national, or global scale.  All in all, geography can help to drive the purposes of social movements.

Continuing on to the Arbour article, these geographies of social movements/identities is especially important.  The Arbour article focuses on the voting patterns related to Obama and the social identities of those who did not vote for Obama.  The rejection of Obama was the strongest in the Appalachian region and in the Southern states.  A specific identity, called unhyphenated American, was associated with those who inhabit this region and who rejected Obama as a presidential candidate.  Unhyphenated Americans are white Americans whose ancestors are European, but they no longer claim to have European heritage, instead they call themselves “Americans.”  Unhyphenated Americans are mostly from rural, southern regions, are evangelical, have a low socioeconomic status, and are poorly educated.  Therefore, the unhyphenated Americans are almost polar opposites of Obama, which may explain why the rejection of him was so strong.  The rejection of Obama by the unhyphenated Americans was as strong as the support of Obama by African Americans.  Overall, a strong conclusion of this article was that Obama’s rejection by unhyphenated Americans may not be only because of his race, but also because of his foreign nature.

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