“We the people . . .” So begins the familiar first line to the Preamble of the United States Constitution. But even in its initial context, in a document intended to be a manifesto of hope and freedom, the matter of who exactly was to be included in this “we” was unclear and contested. First-person pronouns (i.e., I and we) roll off the tongue–or onto parchment paper–with ease, but their common use often belies an underlying complexity. Who am I? Who are we? Who does my theology say that I am?
Identity is at the same time essential to life and yet also deeply contested, problematic, and enigmatic. The world may be becoming more one and, yet, it seems also to be becoming more different, fragmented, agonistic, and isolated. In this issue of The Other Journal, we will explore the valences of identity, both individual and communal, personal and public. We will take up the theme of identity in multiple ways, examining its interconnections with sexuality, pluralism and authenticity, the dissolution and reconstitution of borders, racial divisions, and, yes, even the 2016 presidential campaign.