Sen on Identity and Violence

Now for what I was planning to do this morning before I got all, erm, anxious. I’m reading Amartya Sen’s Identity and Violence – as is Sunny – and I wanted just to quote some.

“Given our inescapably plural identities, we have to decide on the relative importance of our different associations and affiliations in any particular context. Central to leading a human life, therefore, are the responsibilities of choice and reasoning. In contrast, violence is promoted by the cultivation of a sense of inevitability about some allegedly unique – often bellligerent – identity that we are supposed to have and which apparently makes extensive demands of us (sometimes of a most disagreeable kind). The imposition of an allegedly unique identity is often a crucial component of the ‘martial art’ of fomenting sectarian confrontation.” p. xii

“With suitable instigation, a fostered sense of identity with one group of people can be made into a powerful weapon to brutalize another…The art of constructing hatred takes the form of invoking the magical power of some allegedly predominant identity that drowns other affiliations, and in a conveniently bellicose form can also overpower any human sympathy or natural kindness that we may normally have.” p. xv

“What we need, above all, is a clear-headed understanding of the importance of the freedom that we can have in determining our priorities. And, related to that understanding, we need an appropriate recognition of the role and efficacy of reasoned public voice – within nations and across the world.” p. xvii

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