The Perils of Identity
Group Rights and the Politics of Intragroup Difference
Calls for the provision of group rights have become a common part of Canada’s political and legal landscape. Many liberal theorists consider group identity claims a necessary condition of equality, but do they do more harm than good?
To answer this question, Caroline Dick engages in a critical analysis of liberal identity theories and their application in the Supreme Court of Canada, particularly in Sawridge Band v. Canada, a case that sets a First Nation’s right to govern community membership against indigenous women’s right to equality. She contrasts Charles Taylor’s theory of identity recognition, Will Kymlicka’s cultural theory of minority rights, and Avigail Eisenberg’s theory of identity-related interests with an alternative rights framework that takes account of both group and in-group differences. Dick concludes that the problem is not the concept of identity per se but rather the way in which prevailing conceptions of identity and group rights frameworks obscure the interests of intragroup minorities such as women.
In response to the question – what are judges to do? – Dick proposes a politics of intragroup difference that has the potential to transform the way the courts address group identity claims and issues such as Aboriginal rights in Canada and around the world.
This book will be of interest not only to political theorists and legal scholars but also to students and practitioners of feminist studies and Aboriginal-state relations.
Well-written and accessible, The Perils of Identity significantly advances the debate around multiculturalism and group rights, some of the most pressing issues of our time. I would assign it to students interested in Aboriginal politics, but also as a reading for courses on equality rights, constitutionalism, or politics/identity.
The Perils of Identity lays out various philosophical treatments of identity, addresses their limitations, and then offers a means for judges to address group claims. The scholarship is very sound and the author is at the top of her game. Dick’s book will be read widely by political theorists and legal scholars, as well as feminist scholars and those studying Aboriginal-state relations.
1 Gender Discrimination within First Nations: The History and Nature of the Sawridge Dispute
2 Group Rights and the Politics of Identity
3 Taylor’s Theory of Identity Recognition
4 Kymlicka’s Cultural Theory of Minority Rights
5 Eisenberg’s Theory of Identity-Related Interests
6 Culture, Identity, and the Constitutional Rights of Aboriginal Peoples
7 The Politics of Intragroup Difference
8 Sawridge Revisited
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