Lidasan: Understanding identity of politics in Marawi (1st of 2 parts)

THE recent news reports about the situation in Marawi City describe the life and struggles of the internally-displaced persons (IDPs) and their families because of the conflict. Last March this year, mainstream social media highlighted two statements: Statement of Support for Social Justice and For Marawi (Drafted by Women Participants in the Conference on “Harnessing Women’s Voices through Political Dialogue for Inclusive Peace in the Bangsamoro”); and, Marawi’s appeal to President Duterte: Stand with us, help us, please, be one of us. (Appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte issued 29 March 2018 by the Ranaw Multi Sectoral Movement in Marawi City).

The first statement calls for the “full participation of IDP civilians in the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi; and ensuring their free, prior and informed consent in any development and rehabilitation plans, including but not limited to the planned military reservation and Ecozone; the immediate implementation of a comprehensive rehabilitation plan and return of all IDPs for those in ground zero with completely destroyed homes and livelihoods and the full payment of damages wrought by conflict; And the immediate, impartial and thorough investigation by credible judicious body/ies.

The statement also reminds the government that “the voices of sufferings and grievances of mothers, sisters, daughters and loved ones in Marawi are also our voices and only when a system of transitional justice shall have been institutionalized would works of healing and national reconciliation be sustained and genuine peace be really achieved.”

The second statement written by Ranaw Multi Sectoral Movement in Marawi City is an appeal to President Duterte “to intervene in the planned rebuilding” of Marawi City and to stop the plan to establish an Ecozone”.

Both statements apply identity-politics logic model and it is used to support progressive ways of addressing problems and concerns in Marawi. I support both statements. However, there is a need for us to understand what do we mean by identity-politics” or politics of identity. It is clear that the first statement comes from the group of women. The second one comes from the Meranaw people.

Merriam Webster dictionary define identity politics as “politics in which groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group”.

Laura Maguire of Philosophy Talk defined identity politics in this manner. It “is when people of a particular race, ethnicity, gender, or religion form alliances and organize politically to defend their group’s interests. Namit Arora in her essay defines this as, “Identity politics, on the other hand, is politics that an individual—an identitarian—wages on behalf of a group that usually shares an aspect of one’s identity, say, gender, sexual orientation, race, caste, class, disability, ethnicity, religion, type of work, or national origin. Any group—majority or minority, strong or weak, light or dark-skinned—can pursue identity politics. It can be a dominant group led by cultural insecurities and chauvinism, or a marginalized group led by a shared experience of bigotry and injustice.”

For me, the nature of identity politics is part of social dynamics. It is basic in our human life that we have our own stories. Our stories define who we are and we want others to know our stories. From these stories it emphasizes one aspect of our identity above all others. It can also be a source of both strength and weakness. (To be continued tomorrow)
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