From Ascribed Identities to the world of Self-Identification


Just as modernity altered the way individuals understood their relationship to society at large, so did it fundamentally change the way individuals understood themselves. It used to be that a person’s identity was defined by the society to which he or she belonged. But as society was increasingly deemed to be nothing more than the product of human imagination, so too were social identities cast aside as mere human constructions. After all, if there are numerous alternatives to the present social order, there must also be numerous alternatives to the identities that society ascribes to us. Thus, with the rise of modernity, new collective identities began to arise, constructed not through societal mandates but through conscious self-reflection—not “Who do you say I am?” but “Who do I say I am?” In short, the modern age has ushered a transition from a world in which identities were bestowed to a world in which identities can be gained or lost through deliberate action—from a world of ascribed identities to a world of self-identification.”

[Page 132-133 Chapter Six- Generation E]

Source: Reza Aslan. How to win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization and the end of the War on Terror. Random House, New York, 2009.

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6 Comments

Filed under America, Muslim World

6 responses to “From Ascribed Identities to the world of Self-Identification

  1. Moe

    I’ve had his book “No god but God” on my reading list for a long time. That’s an intruiging outtake.

    • Oh that book was suggested to be by my History teacher 3 years ago. It is still on my list. And after reading his Cosmic War, I am now more interested in reading his ‘No god but God.’

      Let me know if you have read any interesting books on these kinds of topics!

      • Moe

        I haven’t read anything that touches on Islam or theology. But some books about the US in the Middle East that I’d highly recommend are:

        Ghost Wars by Steve Coll – about the CIA in Afghanistan in the ’80’s. It’s a stunner.

        Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran – this one concentrates almost entirely on the early years inside the “Green Zone” in Iraq. It’s a disturbing picture and explains a good deal about why Iraq went the way it did.

  2. D.I.D.

    Identities can also be done in both fasions. A “national identity” may exist, but it is up to the individual to accept or reject it.

    Moe, if you want something else to read regarding the Middle East and the US/Western overall role I’d suggest the book “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein. The book is very evidently a partisan attack, but when taken with a few grains of salt it is still quite a stunner.

    • Moe

      D.I.D., I had that one on my list for a while, but never got to it and actually forgot about it. It’s back on the list now!

      I’ve recently been learning about the negative impact from Milton Friedman and the “Chicago school” so this will be interesting.

  3. All 3 books- Ghost Wars; Imperial Life; & the Shock Doctrine are interesting books.

    Based on the intro of the Shock Doctrine, it seems like an outspoken, critical but factual book. Capitalism was spread based on exploitative policies, when and where it didn’t helped US, dictatorial policies were used to bring the economy of tht country in line. Malaysia is a very good example of the Asian Collapse.

    Inshallah will read all 3 of them.

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