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Sarcophagus of Identity: Tribalism, Nationalism, and the Transcendence of the Self

340 pages7 hours


Inspired in part by his lawsuit against the US Secretary of Defense while serving as an active duty military officer, in this book James Skelly explores and critiques the dominant conceptual bases for self and identity. Arguing that our use of language in the construction of identities is unwitting, unreflective, and has engendered horrific consequences for tens of millions of human beings, Skelly shows that we need to overcome sectarian modes of thinking and engage in much deeper forms of solidarity with others.

This book offers not only an academic reflection on the concept of identity but one that delves into the nature of the self and identity by drawing on Skelly's concrete experience of attempting to present a self-identity opposed to war in the face of the political, psychological, religious, and legal arguments put forth in a year-long battle by the United States government to prove that he did not qualify as a conscientious objector. One consequence is that Skelly argues that in order to create a new and more pacific human sensibility we must help ourselves and others to gain sovereignty over our social worlds and the definition of 'who we are'. This will necessitate a broad educational project that arms individuals with the tools necessary to insure that the definitions and categorizations to which we are subject in the construction of traditional notions of 'identity' can be resisted and ultimately transcended.

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