ostmodernism shifted us away from objective Truth and Enlightenment values like free inquiry, open expression, progress, and scientific methodologies. It valorized notions of subjectivity and lived experience while deprecating the idea of an objectively knowable world.
But not everyone’s lived experiences became equally privileged—the experiences of the marginalized received particular status and deference. The more marginalization, oppression, and discrimination one experiences—or one’s ancestors experienced—the more one is attributed a clear, accurate understanding of reality. Old social hierarchies of dominance and subordination are thus inverted to become new hierarchies of credibility and distrust.
The legacy is a widespread internalization of the unsettling values governing our age: victim-based identity politics and intersectionality. In contemporary identity politics, people of a certain race or religion, or who share other identifying characteristics, form alliances based around demographic identities. These identities intersect in complex ways to construct individuals’ self-understandings. The more claim one can make to being a victim—perhaps belonging to multiple oppressed groups—the greater one’s social status and the more secure one’s claim to speak the truth. In short, perceived victimization becomes a new type of epistemology.