There is something distinctly idealistic, if not utopian, in the statement that identities are a matter of becoming rather than being, a question, as Stuart Hall (1996g: 4) puts it, not ‘of “who we are” or “where we came from”, so much as what we might become’. This idealism is tinged with a deep sense of historical and political urgency. In foregrounding the connection of ‘identity’ with the future, with what we might become, Hall’s reflections on the meaning of cultural identity in contemporary life seek to provide a counter to the rampant tendency to use ‘identity’ as unfailingly chained to our real or imaginary past. Identity, says Hall, belongs to the future as much as to the past: ‘Cultural identities come from somewhere, have histories. But, like everything which is historical, they undergo constant transformation. Far from being eternally fixed in some essentialised past, they are subject to the continuous “play” of history, culture and power’ (Hall 1990: 225). Consequently, so is the implication, cultural identities may be the very subjective instruments, or discursive conduits, through which we may shape and construct our futures: they provide the ‘stuff’ that enables us to become political agents. Our role in the making of history depends on how we conceive of ourselves as active, changing subjects, in ways which generate meaningful links between ‘how we have been represented and how that bears on how we might represent ourselves’ (Hall 1996g: 4). By emphasizing the notion of becoming as central to our identities, Hall rescues the possibility for ‘identity’ – the way we represent ourselves to ourselves and to others – to be a resource of hope, the site of agency and attachment that energizes us to participate in the making of our own ongoing histories, the construction of our continuously unfolding worlds, now and in the future. It is in this implicit faith in the future that we can discern the idealism – in the nonphilosophical, existential meaning of that word – of Hall’s politics of identity. But how sustainable is this faith in these cynical times, when pessimism abounds and the future is envisaged by millions across the globe more with fear and dread than with hope and anticipation?