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In the name of identity : violence and the need to belong
Maalouf, Amin.
Adult Nonfiction HM753 .M35 2012

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From Publishers' Weekly:

"A life spent writing has taught me to be wary of words. Those that seem clearest are often the most treacherous. `Identity' is one of those false friends," begins this compelling, provocative and persuasive study of the dangers of personal, religious, ethnic and national identities. 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. Lebanese by birth, Maalouf is a journalist and award-winning novelist (Rock of Tanious) who has lived in France for 25 years. Writing from a position of multiple identities ("I am posed between two countries, two or three languages, and several cultural traditions"), he asserts that many people are in similar situations. 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"; how language facilitates nationalism; and the contradiction between stark identity-based political conflicts and how the same identity-based cultures can be shared by different groups. Maalouf does not na?vely 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, Maalouf's thesis has a slim but vital potential to be realized. This is an important addition to contemporary literature on diversity, nationalism, race and international politics. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

A cruel puzzle of our time, identity is something imposed by race, gender, nationality, and religion. A woman may think of herself as a writer, a Bosnian, and a graduate of the University of Paris with little religious concern and yet be raped and maimed because she is a Muslim. Maalouf, who won the 1993 Prix Goncourt for his novel Le rocher de Tanios (The Rock of Tanios) is an Arabic-speaking Lebanese Catholic who has long lived in Paris. The largest part of his book is about the ways in which the Islamic and Western worlds clash, and the relatively recent turn of much of Islam to fanaticism and the exclusion of unbelievers. He would like to revive its historic tolerance and see religion cease to play a part in identity. He finds hope in the universalizing elements of the current "globalization," but he believes that it will be bitterly resisted unless it can find a place for all cultures and not be seen as an advancing front of Americanization. Maalouf recognizes that people who feel their cultures threatened take refuge behind the walls of exclusive religions and laws designed to protect their languages from intrusion. Yet he argues that the forces that make for unity some economic and some cultural, like the international human rights movement can provide occasions for productive reflection. This gentle book will help ordinary readers find their way through these thickets. Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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