The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity

The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity Review

Who do you think you are? That’s a question bound up in another: What do you think you are? Gender. Religion. Race. Nationality. Class. Culture. Such affiliations give contours to our sense of self, and shape our polarized world. Yet the collective identities they spawn are riddled with contradictions, and cratered with falsehoods.

Kwame Anthony Appiah’s "The Lies That Bind" is an incandescent exploration of the nature and history of the identities that define us. It challenges our assumptions about how identities work. We all know there are conflicts between identities, but Appiah shows how identities are created by conflict. Religion, he demonstrates, gains power because it isn’t primarily about belief. Our everyday notions of race are the detritus of discarded nineteenth-century science. Our cherished concept of the sovereign nation―of self-rule―is incoherent and unstable. Class systems can become entrenched by efforts to reform them. Even the very idea of Western culture is a shimmering mirage.

From Anton Wilhelm Amo, the eighteenth-century African child who miraculously became an eminent European philosopher before retiring back to Africa, to Italo Svevo, the literary marvel who changed citizenship without leaving home, to Appiah’s own father, Joseph, an anticolonial firebrand who was ready to give his life for a nation that did not yet exist, Appiah interweaves keen-edged argument with vibrant narratives to expose the myths behind our collective identities.

These “mistaken identities,” Appiah explains, can fuel some of our worst atrocities―from chattel slavery to genocide. And yet, he argues that social identities aren’t something we can simply do away with. They can usher in moral progress and bring significance to our lives by connecting the small scale of our daily existence with larger movements, causes, and concerns.

Elaborating a bold and clarifying new theory of identity, "The Lies That Bind" is a ringing philosophical statement for the anxious, conflict-ridden twenty-first century. This book will transform the way we think about who―and what―“we” are.

Title:The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity

    Some Testimonial About This Book:

  • Mehrsa

    This book is more of a contemplation of identity--it's not really a "rethinking" so much because there's really nothing new here. Just thoughts about religious and racial identity and how those things...

  • Sara

    The author is a Ghanian/ British philosopher who has spent most of his career in the US. He gets a little academic at times, but does a brilliant job of dissecting and debunking ideas of identity arou...

  • Robin Friedman

    A Nightmare A Body's Got To Live With In The DaytimeRobert Coover's, recent novel "Huck out West" carries the story of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and related characters through the Civil War to 187...

  • Damon Taylor

    “The fact that identifies come without essences does not mean they come without entanglements”It would be unwise to describe the above quotation from a book which actively warns against essentiali...

  • Jackie Law

    Divided into five main sections – creed, country, colour, class and culture – The Lies That Bind is a philosophical exploration of what is meant by identity in our contemporary world. To better un...

  • Joshua Born

    I had high expectations for Kwame Anthony Appiah's The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity. Its title – describing as it does identities based on membership in a group as "lies" – foreshadowed tha...

  • Sanjida

    Clear, insightful writing on religion, class, ethnicity and culture, eschewing and debunking essentialist framings. Appiah is a kindred spirit to my own views and this book is a delight....

  • Steve

    Liked this book so much! Reminded me of his Cosmopolitanism book. Very good discussions of things like race, nationality, sex but I most of all liked his treatment of religions and cultures....

  • Katrina

    A wonderful, easy-to-read introduction to deconstructing "identity" and critiquing the concept of cultural appropriation. I plan to use this in and undergraduate course addressing those issues. ...

  • Mythili

    Reads like a series of undergrad lectures. I generally agree with him and enjoyed the board range of references he drew from but didn’t feel challenged or pushed or particularly surprised by anythin...