The Political Configuration of Identities

31 January 2013, 17:00 - 1 February 2013, 18:30

B16, Faculty of Law

The French Embassy has generously sponsored a cycle of lectures and workshops which bring to Cambridge leading scholars from France to interact and foster research collaborations with experts in Cambridge from across the Schools of Arts and Humanities and Humanities and Social Sciences. In this second year of collaboration, the cycle of talks and workshops will explore the complex theme of identity in 21st-century France and beyond.

The lectures, which will be given in English, are open to any member of the University.  

In this second lecture, co-organised by the Centre of African Studies, Professor Denis-Constant Martin (Sciences Po Bordeaux, University of Bordeaux) will give a talk on The Political Configuration of Identities.  

What is commonly called “identity” has become a central theme in political debates that take place in many societies around the world. The findings of academic studies conducted in various countries converge in showing that “identities” are always the result of processes of social construction which generate narratives combining arguments related to memory, space and culture in order to give “identities” an affective dimension capable of uniting citizens beyond their differences. However, “identity” considered as a social construct is eminently fluid and plural. It therefore needs to be configured to become an efficient tool of political mobilization. This talk will focus on the political processes of identity configuration, taking into account the dialectics of imposition and self-definition, and examine the strategies of “identity” entrepreneurs and the effectiveness of their endeavours.

An interdisciplinary workshop based on Professor Martin's paper will be held the following morning, Friday 1st of February, from 10:00 to 12:30 in room SG2, Alison Richard Building. Researchers working on all geographical areas, and from all fields of humanities and social sciences are welcome to attend. Mphil and PhD students are particularly encouraged to participate, and comment or ask questions relating the concepts and elements tackled in the lecture to their own topics of research. Attendants can consult Professor Martin's publications on the issue of identity which will be available once they have registered for the workshop (see information below and the link at the right hand side of the page).

Both lecture and workshop  are free to attend but registration is required.  Please click on the link at the right hand side of the page to book your place online and choose the option on the booking form if you wish to attend the workshop on 1 February. We suggest using a browser other than Internet Explorer for registration.


Denis-Constant Martin is currently an Outstanding Senior Research Fellow of the National Foundation for Political Science and works at Science Po Bordeaux (Research Centre “Les Afriques dans le monde”). He has conducted research on political systems and cultural practices in Eastern Africa, the English speaking Caribbean and Southern Africa.  His current research focuses on the relationship between culture and politics, and attempts to interpret the social representations citizens entertain about power systems through the study of their cultural practices. He has taught courses on “Comparative Political Development” at Sciences Po Paris, “The Sociology of Popular Music” at the University of Paris 8 – Saint Denis, and “Political Anthropology” at Sciences Po Bordeaux. He has published a great number of academic articles and several books, including: Coon Carnival, New Year in Cape Town, Past and Present, Cape Town, David Philip, 1999 and Viewing the New South Africa, Representations of South Africa in Television Commercials, Johannesburg, Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud, 2006, 94 p. (Les nouveaux Cahiers de l’IFAS.9.) (with Rehana Ebrahim-Vally); he has also edited: Cartes d'identité, comment dit-on "nous" en politique ?, Paris, Presses de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques, 1994, Sur la piste des OPNI (Objets politiques non identifiés), Paris, CERI/KARTHALA, 2002 and L’identités en jeux, pouvoirs, identifications, mobilisations, Paris, CERI/Karthala, 2010.

Further events in this series. More information will be posted shortly.

8-9 November 2012
Literature and National Identity

Professor Anne-Marie Thiesse (CNRS)

28 February 2013
Professor François Burgat (CNRS, Institut Français du Proche Orient)

11 June 2013
Benjamin Stora (Paris 13) and Boualem Sansal

 This event has been co-organised by the Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge.