Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 13: Is identity politics compatible with the pursuit of global justice?
Inspiring thousands of citizens to gather in streets and parks, prompting a dizzying amount of activity on social media platforms, and making front-page news across continents, the Occupy movement of 2011 presented itself as a unifying popular force in the pursuit of global justice. Taking their cue in part from the uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring (see Chapter 16 in this volume), protestors established an Occupy Wall Street (OWS) camp in September 2011 followed by, in the ensuing months, thousands of occupations in cities and towns around the world. The Occupy slogan – ‘We are the 99%’ – plainly suggested the possibility and desirability of solidarity amongst those (the vast majority) disadvantaged by political and economic arrangements that benefited only a few. As one activist-scholar said of the slogan, ‘it was a good one, it was about wealth inequality, but also about inclusion and creating a movement that everyone could be a part of’ (Maharawal, 2013: 178). In light of this, it could be assumed that identity claims did not figure in the Occupy protests. This would be in contrast to many movement mobilisations of the 1980s and 1990s, widely characterised as ‘identity politics’ because they were organised at least in part around a specific group’s experience of injustice and the shared identification that developed on that basis. Occupy might be understood as ‘post-identity politics’, a claim frequently made about the anti-globalisation or global justice movement of which Occupy could be regarded as the latest incarnation.
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