Skip to Main Content
Skidmore College

College to host conference on identity

November 5, 2013

College to host conference on identity

Nov. 5, 2013

Identity and its meaning in various guises will be the topic of a special conference Thursday and Friday, Nov. 7 and 8, at Skidmore College.

Free and open to the public, the conference will bring together a diverse group of thinkers, writers and public intellectuals who will sit together for 11 hours of continuous discussion and sometimes-heated debate. They will not read academic papers but will simply talk with one another and respond to questions put to them by audience members.

They will try to get at the meaning of identity in its various guises and to come to terms with the promise and the danger associated with the lure of identity, with the desire of many people to believe that who and what they are has mainly to do with the race or ethnicity or gender to which they belong.

Conference hours are from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, in Gannett Auditorium, Palamountain Hall; and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, in Davis Auditorium, Palamountain Hall.

The subject of identity has been at the center of heated debates over the course of recent decades. In the United States the debates have often had to do with race and racism, with "identity politics" and with movements associated with "black power" and "whiteness studies." But the debates have also turned on other matters, from gender discrimination to gay pride and gay marriage, from racial or ethnic profiling to affirmative action and school choice.

Outside the United States the debates have been no less heated, some of the time focused on ethnic hatreds and atrocities associated with countries as far flung as Bosnia, Rwanda and the several Middle Eastern states torn by civil war. In France, Turkey and other countries controversy has sometimes focused on the headscarf worn by Islamic women and on other markers of identity.

Some conference participants will argue that identity is always an unfortunate way for men and women to think about themselves and their capacities. Others will contend that, whatever the dangers and excesses, identity is at least one important way for people to know themselves and to differentiate themselves from others who do not belong to their group. Among the participants in the conference are thinkers who have carefully anatomized the tactics of identity movements and attempted to demonstrate the disastrous consequences of identity politics in our educational institutions and in society at large.  

Conference sponsors are Salmagundi magazine, the Zankel Fund, the Jacob Perlow Fund, and the Skidmore Department of English.

Details on the Identity conference are as follows:

The conference will feature six sessions, each one opened with brief preliminary remarks offered by a particular speaker. All of the speakers will be on stage and engaging with one another throughout the 11 hours of the proceedings. 

• Session One, Thursday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m. – Opening keynote remarks by Orlando Patterson (Is "Identity" a Problem?)

• Session Two, Friday, Nov. 8, 10 a.m. – Opening remarks by Tom Healy (Gay Identity, Bourgeois Marriage)

• Session Three, Friday, Nov. 8, 11:30 a.m. – Opening remarks by David Steiner (Schools & "Cultural Narratives")

• Session Four, Friday, Nov. 8, 2:30 p.m. – Opening remarks by Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn (Diversity Training & Identity Politics)

• Session Five, Friday, Nov. 8, 4:15 p.m. – Opening remarks by Peter Beinart (NOT Against Identity)

• Session Six, Friday, Nov. 8, 6 p.m. – Opening remarks by Carolyn Forche (Branding As "identity" in A Digital Society)

Thursday’s program will be in Gannett Auditorium; Friday’s will be in Davis.


Orlando Patterson -- John Cowles Professor of Sociology, Harvard University; winner of the National Book Award in Non-Fiction for Freedom; author of The Ordeal of Integration, Slavery & Social Death, Rituals of Blood.

Peter Beinart -- Former editor-in-chief of The New Republic; professor of journalism at CUNY; senior writer for The Daily Beast/ Newsweek; author of The Crisis of Zionism & other books.

Akeel Bilgram -- Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy and Director of Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University; author of Politics and The Moral Psychology of Identity, Belief and Meaning and other books.

Jim Miller -- Director of liberal studies at the graduate faculty, New School for Social Research; author of Examined Lives, The Passion of Michel Foucault, Democracy Is in the Streets, Flowers in the Dustbin, and other books.

Tom Healy -- Chairman of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board; poet, author of What the Right Hand Knows and Animal Spirits.

Carolyn Forche -- Director of the Lannan Center and holder of the Lannan Chair in Poetry at Georgetown University, editor of Against Forgetting; author of The Country Between Us, The Angel of History, Blue Hour and other books.

David Steiner -- Former New York State Commissioner of Education, currently the Silverstein Dean of the School of Education at Hunter College, author of Rethinking Democratic Education and other works.

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn -- Professor of History at the Maxwell School, Syracuse University; author of Race Experts, Black Neighbors and other books.

Ruth Franklin -- Contributing editor at The New Republic; author of A Thousand Darknesses: Truth & Lie in Holocaust Fiction; contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books; regular film columnist for Salmagundi.

Patrick J. Keane -- Former Francis Fallon Professor of English at Lemoyne College; author of books on Emerson, Coleridge, Yeats, Robert Graves and Emily Dickinson.

Bina Gogineni, Department of English, Skidmore

Robert Boyers, editor, Salmagundi magazine, professor of English, Skidmore College


Related News

Parents and family members of Skidmore’s Class of 2018 have set a new record by raising more than $1.3 million in gifts and pledges for the Class of 2018 Parents Fund.
May 19 2018

Equipped with hands-on experience, new networks, diplomas and a dose of creative thought, grads are ready to tackle both graduate school and the working world.
May 18 2018

Friendships and fun. Accomplishments and confidence. Members of the Class of 2018 share how their lives have changed from 2014 to 2018.
May 17 2018