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Who Are We-And Should It Matter in the 21st Century?

Overview

From those who insist that Barack Obama is Muslim to the European legislators who go to extraordinary lengths to ban items of clothing worn by a tiny percentage of their populations, Gary Younge shows, in this fascinating, witty, and provocative examination of the enduring legacy and obsession with identity in politics and everyday life, that how we define ourselves informs every aspect of our social, political, and personal lives.

Younge—a black British male of Caribbean ...

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Who Are We -- And Should It Matter in the 21st Century?

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Overview

From those who insist that Barack Obama is Muslim to the European legislators who go to extraordinary lengths to ban items of clothing worn by a tiny percentage of their populations, Gary Younge shows, in this fascinating, witty, and provocative examination of the enduring legacy and obsession with identity in politics and everyday life, that how we define ourselves informs every aspect of our social, political, and personal lives.

Younge—a black British male of Caribbean descent living in Brooklyn, New York, who speaks fluent Russian and French—travels the planet in search of answers to why identity is so combustible. From Tiger Woods's legacy to the scandal over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, he finds that identity is inescapable, but solidarity may not be as elusive as we fear.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
British columnist Younge expands on his first book, No Place Like Home, to continue making sense of the shuttlecock of "identity" as it gets bandied right and left in culture and politics. For Younge, the complexities of in-group identity, notions of authenticity in law and religion, or rising xenophobia against particular immigrant groups all boil down to fundamental questions of power, who wields it and to what end. Identities, in this light, become "how we think about ourselves in relation to others." He uses the prism of power to examine the interplay between identity and influence in such diverse phenomena as white men in America, disgruntled at perceiving their loss of influence; Israeli Zionism's investment in Jewishness as a determinant of national inclusion; and Ireland's increasingly conflicted conception of "Irish womanhood." Younge's analyses are sound and to the point. He neatly counters, for example, the insistence in Europe that problems around Muslim immigrants are problems, essentially, with Islam. With just and clearly articulated principles of inclusion and fairness, Younge's analysis is a timely, encouraging read that points to social transformations happily within reach. (July)
Kirkus Reviews

Guardian columnist Younge (Stranger in a Strange Land: Encounters in the Disunited States, 2006, etc.)explores how "our various identities [can] be mobilized to accentuate our universal humanity as opposed to separating us off into various, antagonistic camps.

The author finds prejudice and oppression still alive and well throughout the world—and he should know. He has been there and lived through it in Britain, France, South Africa, Rwanda and elsewhere. Younge provides many examples of people dealing with the slippery nature of identity, including such well-known figures as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Tiger Woods. The author also looks at lesser-known examples, like Joseph Fackenheim, the son of a Holocaust survivor whose conversion to Judaism was annulled by the Israeli Rabbinate; Salma Yaqoob, a councilor in Birmingham, England, who has been threatened with death by her fellow Muslims; and former South African leader F.W. de Klerk, "who tried to make apartheid sound a bit like an abortive attempt to create an early version of the European Union in Africa." There is a thread of hard work and courage in the pursuit of excellence that unites the many people the author profiles, and these praiseworthy qualities seem as deeply interwoven in the notion of identity as the limited horizons and prejudice they oppose. As Younge discusses situations in which members of an elite group seek to maintain their privileged position, as well as the often sharp division between political masters and underdogs, his optimism shines through. With determination, he writes, people can mobilize and things can change. Hitler was defeated. The Soviet system collapsed. Apartheid was overthrown. In the author's view, identity politics are not written in stone.

Younge combines an engaging prose style with close reasoning and solid documentation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568586601
  • Publisher: Nation Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Younge is a columnist for the Guardian and the Nation. His books include No Place Like Home, which was short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Me, Myself, I 15

A political identity in ten parts

2 A Wise Latina 38

The question is not whether we all have identities, but whether we are all prepared to recognize them

3 The Chronicles of Cablinasia 61

Identities do not emerge out of common sense hut communities

4 Blessed Are the Gatekeepers 87

There is no such thing as authenticity, but there are plenty of people trying to enforce it

5 The Truth in Her Eyes 110

The only certain thing about any identity is that it will keep on changing

6 The Many in One 140

We each have several identities that can be compared but not ranked

7 The Enemy Within 169

Identities make no sense unless understood within the context of power

8 Lost in Translation 201

So long as the global means the erosion of democracy, the local will mean the elevation of identity

Conclusion: Keeping the Wolf from the Door 227

Bibliography 232

Acknowledgments 236

Index 237

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