The Other pp 138-165 | Cite as

Mothers/Intellectuals: Alterities of a Dual Identity

  • Gail Weiss


Hybrid identities, especially identities that are usually thought to be oppositional to one another such as ‘mother/intellectual’, can produce confusion and anxiety not only for those who embody them but also for those who witness their co-existence in another person’s life. Linda Martín Alcoff argues that ‘Identities must resonate with and unify lived experience, and they must provide a meaning that has some purchase, however partial, on the subject’s own daily reality’ (42). If it is indeed the case that identities help to make sense of and unify our lived experience, it might seem that the best way to accomplish this would be if our identities themselves were unified. Indeed, our proper names serve symbolically as unifiers of our identity and, as Louis Althusser and Judith Butler respectively maintain, they facilitate our interpellation as singular individuals.1 Both Althusser and Butler emphasize, however, that while it is through interpellation that we become subjects in our own right, at the same time, it is also through being interpellated by others that we are subjected to those others. This process of subjectivation is both enabling and disabling: enabling insofar as it grants us social recognition, disabling because we ultimately lack control over the forms that recognition will take since it issues from others and not from ourselves.2


Black Woman Intellectual Life Ethical Individual Dual Identity Visible Identity 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2007

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  • Gail Weiss

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