Good thinking in a complex context

I’ve used this work in class and I keep returning to its central idea, which is essentialized in the English translation of the title of Amin Maalouf’s Identites meurtrieres.  The English title also is given a subtitle: In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong.

This is a set of reflections worth attending to.  Maalouf explains his intentions in these pages by saying “I want to try to understand why so many people commit crimes nowadays in the name of religious, ethnic, national, or some other kind [gender? race?[of identity.” (brackets mine)

I found that a close study of these essays really helped my student understand world literature, and, just as importantly, themselves and their own vulnerabilities to pressures that would play on their identities and identifications, and the potential to violence in defense of those identities.  One of our most valuable exercises was to have everyone explore their many “identities” and the conflicting and valuable claims of those.  I strongly recommend this work of prose other than fiction–you could use it in Part 4 of the Literature course (and a number of people have).

A complementary and very accessible novel by Maalouf which addresses multiple identities is Leo Africanus, a fictionalized account of the life of Leo the African, a 16th century diplomat and geographer.  Check it out!  It’s on the PLT.

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