How to Resist Demonization of Identities? A Philosophical Reading of the Recognition of the Indian Muslim Identity

    • Cover Photo
    • Presentation speakers
      • Nisar Alungal Chungath, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay, India


    Hegel’s Phenomenology, which understands the self as the “negation of itself,” undercuts fixed self-consciousness in the case of both single and collective self. For him, the self is the tumultuous movement, which necessarily and chaotically “sublates” each stage of consciousness. In “The Politics of Recognition” (1994), Charles Taylor, taking a Hegelian line, claims: “[O]ur identity is partly shaped by recognition or its absence, often by the misrecognition of others.” Arguing that “human being is a differentiating effect of power” in Precarious Life (2006), Judith Butler calls for the recognition of the “generalized precariousness” of the human condition. In Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? (2009), she brilliantly shows how the recognition-worthy, grievable lives of the citizens of powerful nations and the recognition-unworthy, ungrievable lives of other humans such as the Iraqis are politically produced. In this line, I argue that in the context of Indian Muslims, what is to be recognized is not merely the exotic Taylorian difference of an identity but the dynamic differencing historical human process that makes the disparate identity-continuum the way it is. The ontological force of the argument aside, I will establish that homogenizing and essentializing the differences within an identity-constellation is a strategy of oppressors to make of a people a ‘demonized other’, thus forcing the victim to internalize and live by that monstrous self-image. Identities are not prison houses of the self, but liquid continuums within which happens self-making, and which, in turn, are shaped by the self’s everyday doings. It is this contingent way of being Muslim, and not an essential identity, that is to be recognized in India. I will show that focusing on the antiessentialist strands of cultural becoming in identity formation is crucial to resisting such oppressive strategies, who are identified as the wholly ‘other’, nonessential, opposed, inimical selves by the majoritarian State, although the differential approach might be resisted even by those long encumbered by demonization.