Identity and political choice: The co-existence of singular affiliation politics and pluralism

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


Narendar Pani


Contemporary Politics, Routledge, Volume 17, Number 1, p.35–52 (2011)



choice, identity, pluralism, politics


The debate on identity politics is typically carried out in ideological terms. The phenomenon is associated with affiliation to a singular identity. The critique of this view is thus based on the argument that identities can be robustly plural and individuals choose to emphasise a particular identity in each situation. In this paper the focus is shifted from the ideologies of identity politics to the actual process through which individuals make a choice of identity to emphasise. Using empirical evidence from the south Indian city of Bangalore it argues that it is possible, and indeed perfectly consistent, for a robustly plural society, with a variety of identities to choose from, to support forms of singular affiliation identity politics. A free multiparty democracy can then exist even when its politicians are not committed to moderate ideological stances, because its people keep changing the choice of the identity they choose to emphasise.


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