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Identity politics is a political approach wherein people of a particular race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, social background, social class, or other identifying factors develop political agendas that are based upon these identities. Identity politics is deeply connected with the idea that some groups in society are oppressed and begins with analysis of that oppression. The term is used primarily to describe political movements in western societies, covering nationalist, multicultural, women's rights, civil rights, and LGBT movements.
The term "identity politics" dates to the late twentieth century although it had precursors in the writings of individuals such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Frantz Fanon. Many contemporary advocates of identity politics take an intersectional perspective, which accounts for the range of interacting systems of oppression that may affect their lives and come from their various identities. According to many who describe themselves as advocates of identity politics, it centers the lived experiences of those facing systemic oppression; the purpose is to better understand the interplay of racial, economic, sex-based, and gender-based oppression (among others) and to ensure no one group is disproportionately affected by political actions, present and future. Such contemporary applications of identity politics describe people of specific race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, economic class, disability status, education, religion, language, profession, political party, veteran status, recovery status, and geographic location. These identity labels are not mutually exclusive but are in many cases compounded into one when describing hyper-specific groups. An example is that of African-American, homosexual, women, who constitute a particular hyper-specific identity class. Those who take an intersectional perspective, such as Kimberlé Crenshaw, criticise narrower forms of identity politics which overemphasise inter-group differences and ignore intra-group differences and forms of oppression.
Critics of identity politics have seen it as particularist, in contrast to the universalism of liberal perspectives, or argue that it detracts attention from non-identity based structures of oppression and exploitation. A leftist critique of identity politics, such as that of Nancy Fraser, points out that political mobilization based on identitarian affirmation leads to [clarify] that does not challenge the status quo. Instead, Fraser argued, identitarian deconstruction, rather than affirmation, is more conducive to a leftist politics of economic redistribution. Other critiques, such as that of Kurzwelly, Rapport and Spiegel, point out that identity politics often leads to reproduction and reification of essentialist notions of identity, notions which are inherently erroneous.