Both new social movements and postmodernism are historically rooted in the alienated counterculture of the sixties. Especially in the United States they have since become interconnected in the cultural studies (Afro-American Studies, Gender Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies,...), where posttraditional identity construction and postmodern knowledge production have become inseparably intertwined. Still the relationship between new social movements and postmodernism is not free of tension neither of contradiction. Eventually the essentialist idea of posttraditional identities being 'real' thus not 'artificial' or 'constructed' - unlike their traditional pendants - is incompatible with postmodern relativism. Such a postmodern deconstruction of posttraditional identities especially seems to take place where such identities become more widely accepted in society at large, while starting to be experienced as oppressive by some of those concerned.
Centre for Rotterdam Cultural Sociology (CROCUS)
Revue Belge d'Histoire Contemporaine
Department of Sociology

Houtman, D. (2004). Posttraditional identities between essentialism and relativism. About identity policy, new social movements and the spectre of postmodernism [Posttraditionele identiteiten tussen essentialisme en relativisme: Over identiteitspolitiek, nieuwe sociale bewegingen en het spook van het postmodernisme]. Revue Belge d'Histoire Contemporaine, 34(3), 485–507. Retrieved from