Denmark, Aarhus

The Politics of Identity and Recognition

when 5 August 2013 - 30 August 2013
duration 4 weeks
credits 9.9 ECTS

Almost every current Western democracy can be characterized by cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity. These "circumstances of multiculturalism" has given rise to a number of identity and recognition political conflicts. Citizens, politicians and commentators fiercely debate the interpretation of fundamental freedoms and what justice requires under these circumstances. For instance: What are the limits of freedom of expression, and is it relevant that religious feelings are involved? Should Muslim headscarves be banned in public institutions, or would that amount to illegitimate discrimination? Which demands may we reasonably ask immigrants to fulfill in order to integrate into our societies? And is a common, culturally homogenous nation a prerequisite for a well-functioning democracy, or is it sufficient that people identify with the political values on which the state is based. In addition, on a more theoretical level, the circumstances of multiculturalism has given rise to an extensive critique of the understanding and interpretation of the basic normative principles of liberal democracies such equality, freedom and tolerance. A number of theorists allege that these principles as deeply inadequate to handle the pluralistic reality in which we find ourselves. The seminar takes up a number of these issues of identity and recognition politics through reading and discussion of key political theoretical texts dealing with identity and recognition, including texts by Anthony Appiah, Brian Barry, Seyla Benhabib, Nancy Fraser, J├╝rgen Habermas, Axel Honneth, Will Kymlicka, Cecile Laborde, Tariq Modood, Susan Okin, Bhikhu Parekh, Anne Philips, Charles Taylor, and Iris Young. The key questions are how to achieve the most adequate understanding of relations between the concepts of distributive justice, equality, state neutrality, recognition, culture, collective identity and group rights, and how, in light of our understanding of these concepts, we should deal with a number of current political issues, such as: Should Muslim women be allowed to wear headscarves in parliament and as judges in Danish courtrooms? Should it be illegal to draw cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad? And if not, was it still morally wrong of Jyllands-Posten to publish the infamous cartoons? Should religion and politics be strictly separated, and is the Danish national church therefore morally problematic? Is affirmative action justified for ethnic minorities or women, if they are underrepresented in corporate boards or in other attractive businesses, or would it amount to unfair discrimination? The goal of the seminar is to develop the ability to explain central political theories of identity and recognition, to apply these theories to current policy issues, and to critically assess the reasons supporting them. This ability is best developed through accounting for the relevant arguments and positions by the student themselves, so class will largely be discussion based, and participants in the seminar are expected to engage actively in discussions. The seminar is structured as a two week intensive course immediately followed by an oral exam with synopsis.

Course leader

Rasmus Sommer Hansen, Aarhus University

Target group

Master students

Course aim

The objectives for this module are:

- To account for and analyze the arguments and rationales pertaining to the politics of identity and recognition
- To apply political theories of identity and recognition to a range of current policy issues
- To critically assess the arguments and reasons pertaining to the politics of identity and recognition

Fee info

EUR 0: Students on a bilateral exchange programme do not have to pay. Freemovers are obliged to pay participation fees while tuition fees only apply to freemovers from countries outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland.