This term’s series explores social science’s big concepts. It examines the contested meaning and diverse application of some of the theoretical ideas that unify and challenge social scientists. It brings together the bright minds of Oxford, and high profile external speakers, to consider the range of ways in which we can think about ‘power’, ‘space’, ‘identity’, and ‘belonging’.
Identity is one of the most used and yet least satisfactory concept in the social sciences. It encompasses race, gender, class, nationality, and generation. What does the concept means from different disciplinary perspectives? How do identities change? How does their ascribed political and societal salience change? What role do digital transformation, law, and historiography, for example, play in shaping identities and how we collectively think about them?
Mahmood Mamdani is the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Professor of Anthropology and of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS) at Columbia Uni-versity and Director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research in Kampala. He is the author of Neither Settler nor Native, Citizen and Subject, and When Victims Become Killers.