Palestinian, Arab, American, Muslim: “Looping Effects” of Categories and Meaning
AbstractIn this paper I reflect on the power and messiness of identity categories and their meaning. Inspired by the term “looping effects” of philosopher Ian Hacking, I discuss the intricate processes of looping and shifting meanings of categories within and between the realms of the public and the personal. I argue that the notion of looping can contribute to the way we think about the relationship between categories and those being categorized, or in Hacking’s words, the relationship between “names” and “the named.” Due to a wariness of the discursive and linguistic determinism of poststructuralist approaches, I intend to show the intricacy of the “subjective in-between” and the urgency of agency by focusing on one young woman’s unpredictable negotiation of various categories, such as Muslim, American, Palestinian, and Arab, categories placed on her by others as well as herself at different times and in different places. Drawing further on Hacking’s work, the paper also reflects on the ways we as scholars are “making-up” people through the use and promotion of certain categories, and how people categorized embrace and/or resist these in dynamic ways throughout different scales, from public and political spaces to the intimate scale of the personal.
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