Identity, Mediation, and the Cunning of Capital

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ISBN 978-0-8101-4179-7
Publication Date
May 2020
Page Count
312 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Identity, Mediation, and the Cunning of Capital

Ani Maitra

In Identity, Mediation, and the Cunning of Capital, Ani Maitra calls for an urgent reevaluation of identity politics as an aesthetic maneuver regulated by capitalism. A dominant critical trend in the humanities, Maitra argues, is to dismiss or embrace identity through the formal properties of a privileged aesthetic medium like literature, cinema, or even the performative body. In contrast, he demonstrates that identity politics becomes unavoidably real and material only because the minoritized subject is split between multiple sites of mediation—visual, linguistic, and sonic—while remaining firmly tethered to capitalism’s hierarchical logic of value production. Only in the interstices of media can we track the aesthetic conversion of identitarian difference into value, marked by the inequities of race, class, gender, and sexuality.
Maitra’s archive is transnational and multimodal. Moving from anticolonial polemics to psychoanalysis to diasporic experimental literature to postcolonial feminist and queer media, he lays bare the cunning through which capitalism produces and fragments identity through an intermedial “aesthetic dissonance” with the commodity form. Maitra’s novel contribution to theories of identity and to the concept of mediation will interest a wide range of scholars in media studies, critical race and postcolonial studies, and critical aesthetics.

About the Author

ANI MAITRA is an associate professor of film and media studies at Colgate University.


“As invigorating and imaginative as it is informative, Maitra’s argument is one with which all those working in identity, media, race, and postcolonial studies will have to reckon.” —Rey Chow, author of Not Like a Native Speaker: On Languaging as a Postcolonial Experience

“Maitra provides a refreshing and necessary reassessment of the binds of identity politics in an increasingly mediated world. Here, cultural nationalism and antiessentialism are not at odds with one another. Their apparent conflict is the effect of a network of global capital able to antagonize as well as to incorporate anybody and any opposition. In Maitra’s ingenious account of identity, opposition need not be oppositional.” —David Eng, coauthor of Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans

“Bookended by powerful moments of aesthetic confrontation, this book persuasively challenges stances on the politics of identity and the politics of form that lift identity out of the multitude of splitting mediations—linguistic, visual, auditory, tactile, institutional—by which it is shaped. I admire Ani Maitra’s keen eye for the racial disavowals, colonial complicities, and aesthetic attractions that come to light if we heed the ways in which capitalism deploys these mediations to its ever-mutating ends.” —Monique Roelofs, author of Arts of Address: Being Alive to Language and the World
“No other book has so convincingly addressed the politics of identity in diverse historical situations (colonial France, socialist Algeria, multicultural U.S., neoliberal India) while remaining keenly attentive to inherent multiplicity of identity with respect to race, class, gender and sexuality. Brilliantly, provocatively, Maitra thus reveals how intermedial feeling is where capital proves most cunning—and also contestable.” —Thomas Lamarre, author of The Anime Ecology
“Just when you thought 'identity' was a spent category, Ani Maitra makes this perennial problem of identity and identity-formation fresh again. Identity, Mediation, and the Cunning of Capital is an ambitious genealogy of identity across global media forms, refusing both simple accounts of subversion and also the easy consolations of aesthetics. Maitra’s account of identity as a media effect opens up the world in exciting ways, demonstrating its expansive richness and its political possibilities.” —Zahid R. Chaudhary, author of Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-century India

"In this bold book, Maitra tackles head-on the identity formation process of the postcolonial subject in a tour-de-force that takes the reader from post-revolutionary Algeria, to the 1980’s Korea/USA divide, and contemporary neoliberal India. Focusing on the pivotal role of cinema and media, Maitra exposes how racial capitalism’s cunning unfolding of aesthetic and cultural mechanisms prevent the possibility of authentic social and political equality."—Luca Caminati, Concordia University.