Identity Trouble: Disidentification and the Problem of Difference

Josè Medina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


This paper uses the conceptual apparatus of Wittgenstein's later philosophy to tackle a foundational issue in the philosophical literature on group identity, namely, the problem of difference. This problem suggests that any appeal to a collective identity is oppressive because it imposes a shared identity on the members of a group and suppresses the internal differences of the group. I develop a Wittgensteinian view of identity that dissolves this problem by showing the conceptual confusions on which it rests. My Wittgensteinian view of identity tries to establish two main theses: first, that identity is bound up with difference and presupposes heterogeneity; and second, that the solidarity of identity groups, far from being obstructed by differences, actually requires diversity. Drawing from gender and sexuality studies, I use the mechanism of disidentification to show how there can be shared identities and identity-based solidarity without the erasure of differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-680
Number of pages26
JournalPhilosophy & Social Criticism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • Wittgenstein
  • community
  • difference
  • ethnicity
  • familial view
  • gender
  • identity
  • race
  • sexuality
  • solidarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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