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Conditioned Identities

Wished-for and Unwished-for Identities

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Edited By Flocel Sabaté

This book contains selected papers from the meeting «Conditioned Identities. Wished-for and Unwished-for Identities», held in the Institute of Research in Identities and Society (University of Lleida) in 2013 and attended by participants representing different disciplines, discussing the imposition and acceptance of identities. The different chapters of the book, written by scholars and researchers from all over the world, analyse the conflict between attributed and chosen identities in History, Language, Literature, Sociology and Anthropology across various historical periods and geographical regions. Theoretical and practical studies are combined in order to contribute to a renewal of perspectives regarding a key issue for understanding the roots of our current society and the problems surrounding conviviality in today’s world.
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Conditioned Identities. Wished-for and Unwished-for Identities

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Flocel SABATÉ

Universitat de Lleida

“Like all children, I was fascinated by the Nazi paraphernalia. Uniforms, flags and parades I loved”. Hans Massaquoi wanted to be a good Nazi, like all his school and playmates in 1934 Hamburg. However, although he was the child of a German mother, his father was the son of the Liberian consol general in Hamburg, and his skin was black like his father. This led him into a contradiction between the desired identity and the criteria required for him to be granted that identity. Thus, decades later, on recalling his childhood passion for Hitler, he added that “like everyone around me, I cheered the man whose every waking hour was dedicated to the destruction of ‘inferior non-Aryan people’ like myself”1.

In the 12th century, Chrétien de Troyes expressed like nobody else the impossibility of surviving without identity when he depicted the Knight of the Lion who, on not recalling anything he had done until then – ne li souvenoit de nule riens qu’il eüst faite –, moved away from human habitats and took refuge in the forest, where he ate raw meat and lived like the animals until he recovered his memory, and then, on remembering his own identity, once again behaved like a person2. Identities, whether individual or collective, are always based on a memory taken as one’s own. Thus, when referring to the authors who wrote about the origins of the peoples in the...

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