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Culture and Politics: The Challenge of the New ‘Identity Politics’

Auteur : Thomassen Bjorn
Année de Publication : 2008
Type : Article
Thème : Culture

Résumé/Sommaire :

This article is about culture and how to deal with it. It is an attempt to set some limits, draw some boundaries, and indicate some warning signs. It is also about the quality of those boundaries that ‘cultures’ are made from. I will focus on the analytical challenge that ‘identity politics’ represents to political theory in general and International Relations theory in particular. The analytical challenge is this: how to describe and ‘capture’ political movements that use culture as their point of departure? The theoretical challenge is this: how to understand and explain these movements? The challenge can be pinned down to one single question: what is the role of culture in political movements and in the creation of political conflict? I am not going to propose any final answers to this question. What I do wish is to point out some of the many pitfalls to avoid as we seek to meet the challenge. This article, therefore, is modestly about how to ask the right kind of questions. My argument will be of a theoretical, suggestive nature, using empirical examples mostly to illustrate the points raised. At the end of the paper, I will tentatively try and point to an applied dimension of the discussion, relating to conflict and conflict resolution: if conflicts contain a cultural element, how can this element enter negotiations of conflict? If we claim that cultural factors are behind the eruption of conflict, then those factors must be built into our models of conflict resolution – and this is not as simple as it sounds.

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