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Training and Mentorship

In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong (free online course by +Acumen)

Ana Isabel Paraguay
Posted November 17, 2016 from Brazil
Expired on February 4, 2017

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.


- You enjoy close readings of texts and discussions of books

- You are open to exploring your own identity and respectfully understanding the identities of others through conversation

- You are eager to find a way to make sense of current events and productively move forward.


There are no in-person teachers or facilitators for this course. This 1-module course is akin to a book club. Its power comes from the group’s experience of the reading and discussion. We strongly encourage you take this course with a group, but you can also take it individually.

- Get a group of people together. We recommend starting with 3-5 people you know – your friends, family, classmates, or colleagues.

- Have each person you invite sign up individually to receive the reading and discussion guide.

- Your group session will work best if someone takes the lead as a facilitator. We’ve made this easy by providing a full facilitator’s guide (including email templates to invite your friends) which will be emailed to you upon registration.

- Set a date to meet in-person (recommended) or online.

To start, we suggest setting aside 1 hour to read the textand then 2 hours for your group’s discussion. From past experience, if your group is larger it is more likely that you won’t get through the entire reading in that time. Because of this we have made the course materials available on demand so you don’t have to complete them in one sitting.

Start date: on-demand.

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