“Our People Are Worth The Risk”: Race, Identification, and the Formation of Political Community

Colloquium | February 5 | 12-1:30 p.m. | 554 Barrows Hall

 Lisa Beard

 Department of Ethnic Studies

When civil rights organizer Ella Baker asked the question, “Who are your people?,” she was issuing not only the geographic question “where do you come from?” but also the political question “with whom do you identify?” (Ransby, 2003). This question of identification as a political act is likewise registered by anticolonial feminist philosopher María Lugones, who insists that, “we must constantly consider and reconsider the question: ‘Who are our own people?’” (2003) and by Black feminist theorist Audre Lorde, who in one public address asks herself how she is “complicit in the subjugation of any part of those who I call my people?” ([1982] 1984). Drawn from a working chapter of Beard’s book manuscript, Intimate Appeals: Race and Political Identification, this talk turns to Baker, Lugones, and Lorde to register identification as a political practice, then brings this theoretical discussion to bear on work by the contemporary social movement organization Southerners On New Ground, an antiracist LGBTQ organization based in the U.S. South. Ultimately, the presentation offers an account of the ways in which practices of identification are deeply political acts, and argues that struggles over identification are a primary site of politics.