Robert S. Chang


Stuart Hall, writing in the context of British Cultural Studies, describes the demise of the essential black subject as the end of innocence. We have seen in feminist theory and in critical race theory the debate about essentialism, along with various recuperative proposals such as intersectionality, multiple consciousness, positionality, and strategic essentialism. Rather than revisit those discussions, Professor Chang raises the possibility of constructing new subject positions in an attempt to move us beyond the difference divide, to move us from identity politics as we now know it to political identities. In this essay, Professor Chang asks whether we can imagine a world where the utterance of the Korean grocer, in Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing, would not be greeted with incredulity. Is there a way to understand his claim that he is Black as part of the logic of Hall's pronouncement? In his conclusion, Professor Chang offers an alternative reading, one that attempts to read the Korean grocer's statement from a perspective that understands and takes seriously identity as political, not essential.