In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong

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9780142002575: In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong

In this cogent and persuasive examination of identity in the modern world, Amin Maalouf moves across the world's history, faiths, and politics, outlining the way the notion of a singular identity—personal, religious, ethnic, or national—can give rise to heated passions and even massive crimes. Although written before the events of September 11, the essence of Maalouf's rumination couldn't be more relevant.

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Review:

In the Name of Identity is as close to summer reading as philosophy gets. It is a personal, sometimes even intimate, account of identity-in-the-world, not a treatise on the thorny metaphysics of identity. A novelist by trade, Amin Maalouf is a fluid writer, and he is aided by Barbara Bray's award-winning translation. His aim is to illuminate the roots of violence and hatred, which he sees in tribalistic forms of identity. He argues that our convictions and notions of identity--whether cultural, religious, national, or ethnic--are socially habituated and frequently dangerous. We'd give them up, he argues, if we thought more closely about them.

Though the book has been heralded as radical and surprising, Maalouf essentially espouses an Enlightenment sensibility, a faith in the brotherhood of man. He is a believer in progress, arguing that "the wind of globalisation, while it could lead us to disaster, could also lead us to success." In fact, he envisions a globalized world in which our local identities are subordinated to a broader "allegiance to the human community itself." Maalouf wants us to retain our distinctiveness, but he wants it subsumed under the nave of common understanding. --Eric de Place

About the Author:

Amin Maalouf is an eminent novelist, whose books include The Rock of Tanios, which won the 1993 Goncourt Prize, France's most prestigious literary award. He was formerly director of the leading Beirut newspaper an-Nahar and editor of Jeune Afrique.

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