Descriptive Presentation: Invoking Identity as a Claim for Descriptive Representation

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Descriptive representation is commonly understood as the proportion of women or racial minorities in an institution. While useful, this approach is limited in its ability to capture intersectional identities, less visible characteristics, and the extent to which particular characteristics are more or less central to one's identity. Traditional approaches have raised concerns about essentialism - the assumption that members of certain groups have an essential identity that all members of that group share (Mansbridge 1999, 637). This assumption can lead to faulty logic - for example, that any woman can represent all women. Traditional approaches have also focused on visible characteristics, rather than shared experiences. These limitations affect not only who counts as a descriptive representative, but also our ability to assess which descriptive representatives will be most likely to contribute to substantive and symbolic representation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPolitics and Gender
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 15 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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