My interest in studying the Right grew out of relocating to North Carolina
to do graduate work in religious studies. Moving to North Carolina meant
leaving Oakland, California, a city I loved. In Oakland I lived full and open
within the spaces a cultural politics of identity promises: the power people
produce when they identify to make common cause; the sense of self made
possible by seeing so many others who identified ‘‘like me.’’ Born in 1963,
feminist at twelve, from a white working-class family, I practiced micro-
politics as the only kind of politics I knew.
Yet, identity politics has its limits. Although power arises when people
reclaim identities that culture scorns, focusing only on identity does vio-
lence to di√erences even as it reinforces unconscious attachments to
places of wounding—which are, for all the ways we hate them, also the
terms by which we were first brought into social being.∞
Such attachments
block the long-term political work that seeks to go beyond fixing the
In the cultural feminism in which I moved during the mid-1980s, reli-
gion in its many forms (feminist spiritualities, Native American tradi-
tions, Vodou, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism) was a primary discourse
through which issues of identity and di√erence were addressed and de-
nied. The Left can harbor its own fundamentalist fantasies of religion as a
return to innocence—a return that too often legitimates the reassertion of
power. Yet, unlike those who dismiss such hybrid religious identification
as flaky California irresponsibility, for me popular practices of hyphen-
ated religious identity raised disturbing yet productive questions. How
do we learn from other traditions, cultures, and people in ways that dis-
mantle the complex histories of oppression, appropriation, and con-
sumption encoded within our attempts to cross boundaries? How do we
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