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Monday, 5 April 2010

Judt Land and Identity Parades

Tony Judt would be a fascinating reader of Identity Parade.  Perhaps he should be shown a copy, though the great American writer and thinker is sadly very ill with a debilitating disease.  Nontheless he has been dictating essays, and some of his recent writing has appeared in the latest The New York Review of Books.  There he discusses the identity of the edge ('Edge People', March 25, 2010), a cosmpolitan and fragmented identity that he advises intellectuals and academics to adopt, against what he decries as a very dictatorial attempt to define and delimit what is British identity (his own example), among others.  This essay is well worth checking out, to see a well-argued defense of what is basically my position - that strictly nationalist definitions of identity can be dangerous and even demagogic.  It has some wonderful quotes: '"Identity" is a dangerous word.  It has no respectable contemporary uses.'  Or, the conlduing paragraph:

Being Danish" or "Italian", "American" or "European" won't just be an idenity; it will be a rebuff and a reproof to those whom it excludes.  The state, far from disappearing, may be about to come into its own: the priviliges of citizenship, the protections of card-holding residency rights, will be wielded as political trumps.  Intolerant demagogues in established democracies will demand "tests" - of knowledge, of language, of attitude - to determine whether desperate newcomers are deserving of British or Dutch or French "identity".  They are already doing so.  In this brave new century we shall miss the tolerant, the marginals: the edge people.  My people.
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