In the Name of Identity by Amin Maalouf
Violence and the Need to Belong

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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 Amin Maalouf

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Amin Maalouf has written seven novels, including The Gardens of Light, Leo Africanus, and The Rock of Tanios, which won the Goncourt Prize in 1993. He is the former director of the leading Beirut newspaper an-Nahar. He lives in Paris.
Published March 25, 2003 by Penguin Books. 176 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy, History, Science & Math, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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No movie can cast a black as a criminal without other blacks in admirable roles, such as police chief.

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The New York Times

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For it argues that a politics of identity based on a sense of victimization -- which reduces identity to a single affiliation -- facilitates the creation of ''identities that kill.'' It is not useful, Maalouf thinks, to ask whether a religion ...

Nov 25 2001 | Read Full Review of In the Name of Identity: Viol...

Publishers Weekly

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Arguing that these identities allow and often encourage people to engage in horrific acts of violence upon those with different identities, Maalouf offers a philosophical exploration of what a culture without entrenched identities would be like.

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