Identity: Fragments, Frankness

Identity: Fragments, Frankness

Translated by François Raffoul
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 64
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  • Book Info
    Identity: Fragments, Frankness
    Book Description:

    Identity: Fragments, Frankness is a rich and powerful essay on the notion of identity and on how it operates in our contemporary world. In contrast to the various attempts to cling to established identities or to associate identity with dubious agendas, Nancy shows that an identity is always open to alterity and its transformations. Against cynical initiatives that seek to instrumentalize the question of identity in an attempt to manipulate sentiment against immigration, Nancy problematizes anew the notions of identity, nation, and national identity. He seeks to show that there is never a given identity but always an open process of identification that retains an exposure to difference. Thus identity can never operate as a self-identical subject, such as "the French." Ultimately, for Nancy, one does not have an identity but has to become one. One can never return to a self-same identity but can only seek to locate oneself within difference and singularity. Nancy shows the impasse of a certain conception of identity that he calls the "identity of the identifiable," which refers to some permanent, given, substantial identity. In opposition to such identity, Nancy offers the identity of whatever or whoever invents itself in an open process of exposure to others and internal difference. Hence, an identity is never given but "makes itself by seeking and inventing itself." One does not have an identity, but is an identity. Identity is an act, not a state. This important book will provide much-needed philosophical clarification of a complex and strategic notion at the center of many current events and discussions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5612-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. 0 FRAGMENTS …
    (pp. 1-2)

    … yes, stemming from my astonishment: The state of which I am a citizen is launching a national debate on national identity.¹ Has this identity been lost? Has it become decidedly too indecisive? Could it be in danger? But the state is only ever the instrument of the nation: It is not its role to define, and even less to constitute, the identity of the nation. Furthermore, since the only purpose of this initiative is to close the ranks of those who fear for the identity of said identity—the color of one’s skin, one’s accent, language, and religion—and...

    (pp. 3-6)

    We must first make a strong and clear statement, even a violent one if necessary, regarding the perpetual oscillation of causes and effects between assertions from the Right (these people¹ do not want to let themselves be integrated into the national identity) and arguments from the Left (the conditions they are faced with do not even allow them to claim an identity).

    We must first make a clear and unequivocal statement, by refusing arguments that deny the most visible causality: Yes, without work, without good places to live, but only those subproducts of an urbanization without urbanity, with no development...

    (pp. 7-8)

    The better-informed newspapers reported a statement from the president to his cabinet ministers, in the context of the presentation of the main goals of the two programs for the regional elections of March 2010 and for the great debate on “national identity” that was about to be launched (in November 2009): “What I want is somegros rouge¹that leaves a stain.”²

    One could not state it any better. Thegros rougethat leaves a stain, the overripe camembert, and the supposedly Galliccoqstanding on so many bell towers do indeed constitute undeniable markers of identity of the French...

    (pp. 9-12)

    The project of having the population of a country hold an official debate about its own identity is one that initiates a deadly process. The inevitable result will be—in truth, it already is from its very announcement—a mark of obsolescence, if not of death properly speaking, with respect to the country in question, to this “identity” whose nature was sought. For other results, one would need to imagine a radicality and a breadth to this debate such that its very terms can be put into question, displaced, or subverted: “identity,” then, and “French.” This is impossible, it will...

  8. 4 FRANKLY
    (pp. 13-16)

    A frank identity: an identity that is clear, distinct, indubitable, even emphasized and, further, declared, open, exposing itself with a resolute sincerity. In order to present oneself, to display “who” one is—substantially so, apart from numbers and the codes of the administrative control of identity—one must have a certain frankness of speech, afranc-parlerin which one speaks one’s mind. And one needs no less frankness to tell someone how one “sees” them. This resolute sincerity is possible only through the free or affranchised character of the one who identifies himself or herself in this way:francin...

    (pp. 17-20)

    Two axioms:

    Identity relies both on itself and on a lineage. More exactly: It is itself its own lineage.

    Identity demands a name.

    Identity is in its lineage, for it can give itself only in a gesture that relates the same to itself: “I am I” does not produce such a relation. At most it is the relation of logical identity: “I = I.”¹ What is immediately troubling in this equality is that it equally states that all the “I” are identically “I.” “I” cannot be posited like anxidentical tox, because the “I,” the very word itself,...

  10. 6 WHO?
    (pp. 21-24)

    The government’s proposal of a debate or a consultation on “French identity” meets up with one consensus and gives rise to yet another. The first is the consensus of modes of thought attached to the distinction of a national reality as generic, native, or natal—according to the origin of the word “nation”—of that consistent, if not substantial, community that the population of a country is supposed to constitute, whether this reality is represented as nature or spirit (which, in the end, makes little difference). The second is the consensus of a way of thinking that has long been...

    (pp. 25-28)

    For anyone who works in what is called the “social sciences,” for a historian, a sociologist, an ethnologist, a psychologist, or a psychoanalyst, for a theoretician of literature or art, but also for an artist or a writer, and for a philosopher, the announcement of a debate on national identity could at first provoke only an outburst of incredulous laughter. What! All of a sudden we are to have a debate on three notions at once—identity, national, national identity—the complexities of which, the difficulties, at times the aporias or the dangers, but also the constant limitations as well...

  12. 8 PEOPLES
    (pp. 29-32)

    The question of cultural identities is a very serious and long-standing one. Let us call them “cultural identities,” although we could also speak of “peoples,” “symbolic configurations,” “languages,” “mentalities,” and “structures”: We could merge all these terms into one—which in fact would be the one that, for a very long time, has carried this complex, indeed overwhelming, value, namely the word “people”; but its current misuses require that we not excessively rely on it. One should hear in it at once the senses of “tribe” [peuplade], “population,” and “settlement” [peuplement], while avoiding the overidentifying rigidity that the word “ethnicity”...

  13. 9 NATIONS
    (pp. 33-38)

    Of course, at a given time or epoch, there is in each case something of a people [du peuple] that has been constituted in one way or another, one that speaks Basque or Finnish, which counts the days or knits their clothes in such and such a way. However, behind this people, its language, its customs [coutumes], or stitching [couture], there are always other peoples and other languages, other ways, other inventions.

    And, of course, each people has an identity, or ratherisan identity, for one cannot own an identity. In fact, this is how a people becomes a...

  14. 10 EMPIRES
    (pp. 39-40)

    One will ask: Where are peoples before or outside of nations? They are either in nature—an expression which today cannot have any other sense than that of the figurative sense of “lost, out of place,” since indeed there is no forest or steppe that is not more or less subject to administration—or in empires. I will not venture an analysis of “empire”—is there even only one, one unique essence?—nor do I wish to claim that it would be a way of preserving peoples.¹ I note only, with respect to what occupies us here, that an empire...

    (pp. 41-42)

    No, identity cannot be isolated as a precipitate. It has instead always been, whether for a people or for a person, a simple index—the index of a name—directed toward what comes, and never ceases to come, what comes back and transforms itself, opens new paths, leaves traces, but never a thing or a unity of sense. Identity comes from infinitely far, since it comes from before any possible identification—resemblances, yes, at times appear through the play of kinships, but they only confirm the infinite withdrawal, in each of us, of the point of distinction. Twins know this....

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 43-46)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 47-48)