Definition of identity politics

: politics in which groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group Identity politics took its modern form during the second half of the last century. It emerged as an emancipatory mode of political action and thinking based on the shared experience of injustice by particular groups—notably blacks, women, gays, Latinos and American Indians.— Orlando Patterson Although the UCLA center's standards promoted rigorous history, they set off a major culture war because of their relentless emphasis on identity politics.— Diane Ravitch Identity politics is contemporary shorthand for a group's assertion that it is a meaningful group; that it differs significantly from other groups; that its members share a history of injustice and grievance; and that its psychological and political mission is to explore, act out, act on and act up its group identity.— Catharine R. Stimpson A number of critics have viewed her work through a lens of identity politics, taking her to be some sort of oracle of Muslim womanhood.— Lauren Collins

Examples of identity politics in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Through its driving focus on the singularity of all her subjects, Neel’s work pumps oxygen into a room choking on the exhaust fumes of identity politics. Washington Post, "Alice Neel was the greatest American portraitist of the 20th century. Her work continues to astonish.," 25 Mar. 2021 Many people, myself included, viewed the letter as a critique of identity politics dressed up in banal paeans to the sanctity of free speech. Ryu Spaeth, The New Republic, "John R. MacArthur Is a Disgrace," 3 Mar. 2021 The most memorable outbursts have been odd letters of denunciation from Asian American readers exposing the underbelly of identity politics. Tracy Quan, Los Angeles Times, "Tracy Quan: Don’t forget — the Atlanta shooting is a hate crime against sex workers," 19 Mar. 2021 Race and identity politics can be complicated, but what's not hard to understand is that these incidents happen because disparities and a far-from-level playing field absolutely exist in this world and in Hollywood. Lisa Respers France, CNN, "White guilt, apologies and why Hollywood is a cauldron of race issues at the moment," 18 Mar. 2021 My engagement with classical antiquity continues to affirm, for me, its civilizing values, rather than the corrosive barbarism of identity politics. Andre M. Archie, National Review, "What Makes the Classics Worth Studying," 27 Feb. 2021 But this new brand of identity politics has tested the power of the preacher against extremist voices in the pews. Los Angeles Times, "QAnon and conspiracy theories are taking hold in churches. Pastors are fighting back," 3 Mar. 2021 Teachers are now urged to highlight identity politics, intersectionality, and oppression at every turn. Stanley Kurtz, Washington Examiner, "Democrats plot path to dominance," 25 Feb. 2021 In today’s world of identity politics, functional diversity isn’t something that’s really discussed. Chelsea Davis, Forbes, "Building Bridges: Wine Innovators Pave The Way For Future Generations," 25 Feb. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'identity politics.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of identity politics

1979, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of identity politics was in 1979

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Last Updated

4 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Identity politics.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

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