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Frustrating Conversation, Part 2

February 4, 2010

Today I asked these questions:

  • Once labels or identities are applied to individuals, what further attributions might come with the identities (e.g., blondes are dumb)?
  • What consequences might follow from the attribution of a label or identity? I.e., what social, political, or moral consequences might follow? What desires might be produced in the subject so labeled?

This refocused our discussion on the pragmatic issues related to categorization. Asking these questions redirected the conversation away from questions like “Is this set of categories better than another?” and toward questions like “Whose interests are served with this set of categories as opposed to another?”

This resulted in a much better discussion; my conversation partners were much less dismissive of the anti-essentialist concerns I was raising. Thanks for your suggestions!

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