The politics of identity have played center stage in many political debates in the last few years, and is often seen somewhat pejoratively as an epiphenomenal manifestation of the dynamics of capitalism. Some scholars, however, see this as a reductive mistake, not just for any attempt to organize against capitalism, but also as part of a mistaken understanding of what ‘identity’ is. This is one of the animating ideas of Ani Maitra in his new book Identity, Mediation and the Cunning of Capital (Northwestern University Press, 2020). Utilizing the insights of philosophy, psychoanalysis and critical theory, the book looks at radio transmissions and films dispersed through the Algerian revolution and its aftermath; it examines experimental prose and imagery around Asian-American identity produced by neoliberal academic institutions; and it looks at the orientations on display at an LGBTQ+ film festival in an India struggling to join the world market while still maintaining its own distinct identity. The book is a theoretically-informed world tour that scours the globe in search of the various contexts that mediate us, and the contradictory identities that emerge.
Ani Maitra is an associate professor of film and media studies at Colgate University. He received his PhD at Brown University, and is the author of a number of book chapters and articles.