In the Name of Identity Summary

In Amin Maalouf’s book “In the Name of Identity” Maalouf emphasizes that we should not judge people on one singular identity. He argues that, “Identity can’t be compartmentalized. You can’t divide it up into halves or thirds or any other separate segments. I haven’t got several identities: I’ve got just one, made up of many components in mixture that is unique to me, just as other people’s identity is unique to them as individuals. ” The essence of Maalouf’s argument is that one should not define another based solely on a singular component of their identity but rather their identity as a whole.
In chapter one, Maalouf suggest that, “… People commit crime nowadays in the name of religious, ethnic, national, or some other kind of identity. ” Massacres, racial discrimination, and holocausts have all been done in the name of defending a single component of ones identity. Maalouf makes a valid point when he writes, “What’s known as an identity card carries the holder’s family name, given name, date and place of birth, photograph, a list of certain physical features, the holder’s signature and sometimes also his fingerprints. Proving that society as a whole selects individual components of their identity to define themselves. According to Maalouf, identity is defined as,”…A number of elements, and these are clearly not restricted to the particulars set down in official records. Of course, for the great majority these factors include allegiance to a religious tradition; to a nationality – sometimes two; to a profession, an institution, or a particular social milieu. But the list is much longer than that; it is virtually unlimited. ” Maalouf celebrates the fact that identity is extremely complex.
Each person has a single identity, although each identity is made up of many components, causing not one to be the same. In chapter two Maalouf tries to examine his own identity. Maalouf claims he is not trying to find one singular part of his identity to define himself but rather find instances that define him. Maalouf admits, “As you may imagine, my object is not to discover within myself some essential allegiance in which I may recognize my self. Rather the opposite: I scour my memory to find as many ingredients of my identity as I can. Throughout chapter two Maalouf goes into great detail about what defines him. He clearly states that it is not one component, for instance coming from an Arab background and being a Christian. He does not deny himself of either identity, but instead embraces them both. Maalouf claims that the more allegiances one has the rarer one’s identity is. He clearly states, “Every one of my allegiance links me to a large number of people, But the more ties I have the rarer and more particular my own identity becomes. Towards the end of chapter two he claimes society generalizes and puts individual components of ones identity and judges them based solely on that single component. Maalouf complicates matters further when he writes, “We blithely express sweeping judgments on a whole peoples, calling them “hardworking” and “ingenious,” or “lazy,” “touchy,” “sly,” “proud,” or “obstinate. ” He claims that these judgments often lead to bloodshed. In chapter three maalouf states, “Identity isn’t given once and for all: it is build up and changes throughout a person’s lifetime. The essence of Maalouf’s argument is our identity changes over time and different components are added everyday, changing our identity as a whole. He gives a great example of an African baby born in New York, compared to if it was born in Lagos, Pretoria, or Launda. The child would have completely different experiences by the age of 10, and each experience would drastically change its identity. Maalouf also argues that people view themselves by the allegiance that is most threatened. Thus, the reason Maalouf believes killers are made.

He argues that, “We have only the events of the last few years to see what any human community that feels humiliated or fears for its existence will tend to produce killers. ” It his human nature to defend one’s self when feeling threatened. Maalouf agrees when he says, “There is a Mr. Hyde inside each of us. What we have to do is prevent the conditions occurring that will bring the monster forth. ” In conclusion Maalouf urges us to prevent our selves from generalizing each other based on a single component of one’s identity. He argues that this will prevent wars, murders, and holocausts.

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