Negotiating identity in the post-colonial Arab world: Clues from psychoanalytic theory
This paper argues that the identity problematique remains at the centre of contemporary Arab writings on emancipation. Drawing from prominent Maghrebi historians and philosophers, I argue that debates about 'self-emancipation involves two 'others': The Arabo-Islamte heritage and the West. I contend that preoccupation with identity in contemporary Arab writings is not just a dated remnant of nationalist ideology. Rather, it reflects unsettled battles from the colonial past-most vividly analysed by Frantz Fanon in Algeria-between imported modern politics, on one hand, and local cultures and languages, on the other. While the liberal democratic states' efforts to reconcile universal citizenship with distinct cultures could be a useful political model, the liberal's fundamental focus on the rational individual in pursuit of interest is limiting. To understand the tortuous course of self-emancipation in the historical context of the Arab world, I suggest the metaphor of the child's traumatic and symbolically violent emancipation from both the mother and the father figures. Copyright © 2004 Mediterranean Institute.
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