Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Books: Identity and Violence

This is an excellent book written by Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, one of our generation's most gifted scholars, whom I spent years studying in college. You can read an email exchange between Sen and Robert Kagan discussing the book here.

The thesis is simple but profound: It is wrong to characterize our era as a "clash of civilizations" between Western/Democratic and Eastern/Islamic cultures. Instead, people have bundles of different identities. "The same person can be, without any contradiction, an American citizen, of Caribbean origin, with African ancestry, a Christian, a liberal, a woman, a vegetarian, a long-distance runner, a historian, a schoolteacher, a novelist, a feminist, a heterosexual, a believer in gay and lesbian rights, a theater lover, an environmental activist, a tennis fan, a jazz musician," and so on. Separating the world out into opposing camps is erroneous and dangerous.
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