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Transforming Liberal Politics: Lessons from the Southeastern North Carolina Native Americans' Struggle for Recognition


Robert E. Stein

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An examination of the federal recognition of Native Americans illustrates the importance of re-framing liberal debates over the efficacy of a politics of recognition. While this instance of a politics of recognition violates certain fundamental liberal ideals, it also reveals why arguing against such an approach is not effective in practice. Liberals should accept the need for recognition politics given current conditions but work to develop alternative economic spaces in order to create conditions under which everyone can feel materially secure if they so wish. Achieving this would liberate recognition politics from the distorting effects of material need.

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