Identity and Violence

Wounded Identity

  • What is the danger of singular and exclusive identies?

  • What is wounded identity?

  • What is a chosen trauma?

  • What role do these play in violent conflicts?

In this lessson, we will explore these questions by reading excerpts from "Identity and Violence" by Amartya Sen and "In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong"by Amin Maalouf. We will also consider our own affiliations and allegiances.

Social Identity, Power and Privilege

  • What is privilege?

  • What is oppression?

  • Which aspects of our identity make it more likely that we will be victims of violence?

  • In what types of violence is oppression manifested?


In this lesson, we will explore the concepts of social identity, power, privilege, and oppression and examine how these play out in our own lives and countries.

Ethnic Conflict and Violence

  • What is ethnicity?

  • What are ethnic conflicts?

  • To what extent are civil wars based on ancient hatreds between different ethnicities?

We will explore these questions through some readings and case studies.

Religious and Sectarian Conflict and Violence

  • What is sectarianism?

  • What is the distribution of Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East?

  • To what extent are political disputes and conflicts in the Middle East rooted in sectarian differences, and to what extent are they rooted in more immediate political issues of the distribution of power and wealth in the region?

We will explore these questions through some readings, videos and a case studies of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.


  • How did the 2003 US invasion of Iraq affect the country?

  • Who are the different groups living in Iraq?

  • To what extend is the current violence in Iraq driven by sectarianism? What other factors drive the conflict?

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