A Symposium on Asad Haider’s Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump / Avram Alpert

Around the same time that Asad Haider published his lucid critique of identity politics, I was in the midst of ongoing conversations with friends and colleagues in the arts and humanities about the question of identity in contemporary art. We were thinking through (and wringing our hands over) complex intersecting problems: how to be allies and/or protect ourselves without resorting to essentialism, how to take seriously the assault on women and people of color across class lines without losing sight of a class-based analysis, how to register the value of diversity without falling into the commodification of identity. I am not sure that Haider has answers to these questions, but he does clearly and provocatively take a stand. For him, there can be no politics of identity that is separated from a politics of universal emancipation around the overcoming of class distinctions. In fact, he argues, there is not even a coherent history of identity politics outside this framework, since, as he details in the book, early theorists of identity politics like the members of the Combahee River Collective were explicit about the links between being feminist, black, queer, and socialist.

While there are elements of Haider’s argument that I disagree with, I found his statement clear, concise, and worthy of debate. I thus decided to ask those I had been discussing these issues with to respond to his book. They have responded here in a variety of formats—essays, conversations, personal reflections, and works of art. Ranging from affirmative to critical, they constitute a rich tapestry of reflections on how Haider’s provocations relate to contemporary theory, art, and politics. In order to allow readers to appreciate the diversity of the responses, ASAP/J editor Abram Foley and I thought it best to publish the responses in two parts. Both are now available.

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Contributions to the symposium:

Part I

Nasia Anam, “Response to Asad Haider’s Mistaken Identity
Noor Abed & Anthea Behm, “A Conversation
Danilo Correale, “An Incomplete List of Words in Need of Urgent Safeguarding
Thom Donovan, “I Tried to Be a Socialist
Shellyne Rodriguez, “Two Readings on Mistaken Identity

Part II

Jen Liu, “Zombie Talk
Cliff Mak, “Late Registration: Universal Agency & the Cultural Logic of Compulsion
Sreshta Rit Premnath, “Must I Be POC?
Daniel Tucker & Dan S. Wang, “We Our Us: Classroom Collectivity in Trump’s America
Genevieve Hyacinthe, “You Are Entitled to Rest

 

Avram Alpert
Avram Alpert is a Lecturer in the Princeton Writing Program. He is also co-director, with Meleko Mokgosi and Anthea Behm, of the Interdisciplinary Art and Theory Program. His first book, Global Origins of the Modern Self, from Montaigne to Suzuki, was published in May 2019 by SUNY Press.