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Identities, Representations/Positioning and Politics

Dialogue between Professor Ann Phoenix and Professor Gina Philogene

Ann Phoenix – Professor, Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education University of London

An important contribution of social representations theory is its centring of social and cultural practices (Jovchelovitch, 2007) and the links theorists have drawn with social identities (Breakwell, 1991; Howarth, 2002). Current theorisation of social representations builds on Moscovici’s work to engage with power relations, discourses and narrative approaches. These developments help to illuminate commonalities with developments in other approaches to theorising social life. In particular, notions of contestation and transformation and attention to the negotiated, dynamic processes of meaning making within particular social contexts have become commonplaces within the social sciences and critical social psychology.

This paper foregrounds theoretical notions of intersectionality, social positioning and ‘liveable lives’ to address areas relevant to social representations. It draws on empirical research and literature to consider three issues where, in different ways, politics and identities are inextricably linked: family practices and children’s positioning in relation to poverty and consumption; the ways in which adult siblings retrospectively evaluate their childhoods to produce different racialised, political ideologies and how sociostructural positioning is central to racialisation in the academy—an issue that has recently begun to be publicly aired in various universities.

Gina Philogene – Professor, Sarah Lawrence College

The role of census in Construction of identity

"The critical role of the census in any country is to take account cumulatively of information concerning the development of a population, its structure, as well as its living conditions. However, to the extent that the census reflects the demographic reality of a multi-ethnic society such as the United States, it becomes a tool to classify, categorize, and hierarchize. In this discussion I explored the creation of the US census and analyze its ways of creating racial categories as a means to trace and control the proliferation of racial and ethnic mixtures. Yet, in this kind of interwoven society at the onset of the 21th century these exercises are at best futile and at worst misleading. I also wanted to show that the United States is not an exception. The phenomenon of the “Castas” in Latin America illustrates exactly the same meaningless effort as those demonstrated in the United States census".

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