Identity and the Politics of Multiculturalism

Please note: this is archived course information from 2023 for POLITICS 724.


Politics in pluralist democracies has increasingly become dominated by claims for recognition on the part of minority groups, divided along the axes of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and so on. Identity politics challenges conventional ways of understanding both pluralism and power in politics. It assumes the political status of identity group, rather than interest group membership, and it locates recognition – rather than redistribution – claims at the centre of progressive politics. Identity has largely replaced class as the locus for social meaning and the driving force behind individual action. 

This course examines the theory and politics of identity, recognition and difference. We will begin by examining the concepts of identity, difference, self and other from a philosophical perspective. We will then focus on the way these concepts have been deployed in political practice by a range of movements, and upon some of the key critiques of identity politics, from both the right (the civic republican position) and the left (social-democratic redistributive critiques). 

The course is intended for students interested in the problems of contemporary pluralist democracies, cultural diversity and the role of social movements from either a philosophical or a more directly political perspective. 


All readings will be available on Canvas.


Assessment consists of an in-class presentation, 3 short essays and participation in class discussion. There will be no exam.

Availability 2023

Not taught in 2023


Coordinator(s) Associate Professor Katherine Smits


POLITICS 724: 15 points