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In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong
Synopses & Reviews
Identity — what makes each of us unique — has been a fundamental question of philosophers from Socrates to Freud. Identity is the crucible out of which we come: our background, our race, our gender, our tribal affiliations, our religion (or lack thereof), all go into making up who we are. All too often, however, the notion of identity — personal, religious, ethnic, or national — has given rise to heated passions and even massive crimes.
"I want to try and understand why so many people commit crimes in the name of identity," writes Amin Maalouf. Moving across the world?s history, faiths, and politics, he argues against an oversimplified and hostile concept of identity. Cogently and persuasively, he examines identity in the context of the modern world, where it can be viewed as both glory and poison. He demonstrates, too, the dangers of using identity as a protective — and therefore aggressive — mechanism, which frequently leads to the repression or extermination of minorities, heretics, or class enemies.
Maalouf contends that many of us would reject our inherited conceptions of identity, to which we cling through habit, if only we examined them more closely. The future of society depends on accepting all identities, while recognizing our uniqueness.
[A] compelling, provocative and persuasive study of the dangers of personal, religious, ethnic and national identities. With intelligence, wit and moral fortitude, Maalouf accessibly and eloquently addresses such complicated issues as how we judge religious traditions that have embraced violence and brutality; modern manifestations of "otherness"...Maalouf does not naively demand that personal identities be dismissed, but suggests a number of ways in which identities can remain intact and might form not a "meaningless sham equality" but "rather the acceptance of a multiplicity of allegiances as all equally legitimate." Utopian realism at its finest...This is an important addition to contemporary literature on diversity, nationalism, race and international politics. Publishers Weekly
The latest attempt to explain the propensity of civilized nations to repeatedly engage in the massacre of their neighbors, a practice alternately known as genocide, race riots, ethnic cleansing and, simply, mass murder. Distinguished Lebanese novelist Amin Maalouf focuses on the universal human need for a sense of identity. A convincing thesis from a wise and civilized voice. Kirkus Reviews
[Maalouf's] informal style, in excellent translation from the French, brings immediacy and commitment to a subject that the academics make impenetrable with jargon and the politicians make wild with rhetoric. Fascinating discussion sure to spark debate. Hazel Rochman, Booklist
Book News Annotation:
The sense that at some deepest core, everyone identifies as one single nationality and culture and considers all others peripheral is wrong, says Paris-based, Lebanon-born novelist Maalouf. He charges those millions of people who straddle two or more to use their position to serve as a bridge, especially when the two larger groups are engaging in violence against each other. There is no academic paraphernalia. Translating s meurtri<`e>res/>, published by Editions Grasset & Fasquelle in 1996, won Barbara Bray her third Scott-Moncrief Prize.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The notion of identity — personal, religious, ethnic, or national — has given rise to heated passions and crimes throughout history. What makes each one of us unique has been a fundamental question of philosophy from Socrates to Freud. This book argues that the concept of identity that prevails the world over is still very much tribal. It allows men of all countries, conditions, and faiths to be transformed into butchers and fanatics, passing themselves off as defenders of a given identity. Maalouf contends that many of us would reject our inherited conceptions of identity, which we cling to through habit, if only we examined them more closely. The future of society depends on accepting — while recognizing our uniqueness — all identities.
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