The headlines have been filled with reports of terrorism, mass shootings, protests on college campuses and a refugee crisis. The world too often feels intractably polarized along lines of identity. How should we respond? In his 1996 book, In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong, the Lebanese-born French writer Amin Maalouf does not offer easy answers. Yet, his text helps us explore the multiple dimensions of identity; understand the roots of violence and tribalism; and recognize the value of embracing multiple allegiances and affiliations. Throughout history, most large-scale acts of violence — whether the genocides, the Holocaust, or wars — have been committed in the name of identity: one tribe against another, one religion against another, one nation against another.
In this course, you’ll have a chance to join a global conversation about Maalouf’s writings and larger questions of identity in light of current events. You’ll receive a discussion kit complete with a downloadable version of the text, a step-by-step facilitator’s guide and background materials that will equip you to host a small group of friends or colleagues in a 2-hour discussion of the first five chapters of Maalouf’s book. The course will also give you tools to reflect on your own identity and think about it in relation to the larger historical and cultural factors that Maalouf lays out.
One of the most important takeaways from Maalouf’s book is that our identities are multi-faceted, evolving, and resist easy definitions. To that end, we do not propose that this course and group discussion will bring you to any resolution regarding your own identity, or any clear understanding about why so many commit acts of violence and aggression in the name of identity. Yet, as Maalouf himself says, “that shouldn’t prevent us from observing, from trying to understand, from discussing, and sometimes suggesting a subject for reflection.”
Maalouf’s “In the Name of Identity” does not offer easy answers. Yet his writings serve as a powerful exploration of the multiple dimensions of identity, the roots of violence and tribalism, and the value of embracing multiple allegiances and affiliations. Please join us in this important global conversation.This is the second reading in our series – Readings that Matter— adapted from a set of readings that Acumen’s Fellows and staff discuss on a regular basis as part of our leadership training and development.