Narrative and the Politics of Identity: The Cultural Psychology of Israeli and Palestinian Youth

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9780195394467: Narrative and the Politics of Identity: The Cultural Psychology of Israeli and Palestinian Youth

Since the late nineteenth century, Jews and Arabs have been locked in an intractable battle for national recognition in a land of tremendous historical and geopolitical significance. While historians and political scientists have long analyzed the dynamics of this bitter conflict, rarely has an archeology of the mind of those who reside within the matrix of conflict been attempted. This book not only offers a psychological analysis of the consequences of conflict for the psyche, it develops an innovative, compelling, and cross-disciplinary argument about the mutual constitution of culture and mind through the process of life-story construction. But the book pushes boundaries further through an analysis of two peace education programs designed to fundamentally alter the nature of young Israeli and Palestinian life stories. Hammack argues that these popular interventions, rooted in the idea of prejudice reduction through contact and the cultivation of 'cosmopolitan' identities, are fundamentally flawed due to their refusal to deal with the actual political reality of young Israeli and Palestinian lives and their attempt to construct an alternative narrative of great hope but little resonance for Israelis and Palestinians. Grounded in over a century of literature that spans the social sciences, Hammack's analysis of young Israeli and Palestinian lives captures the complex, dynamic relationship among politics, history, and identity and offers a provocative and audacious proposal for psychology and peace education.

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About the Author:

Philip L. Hammack, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz


"With his energy, eloquence, and insight, Phillip Hammack is one of the most promising young scholars in the study of human development. It takes great courage and integrity to enter two of the most oppositional cultural milieus in the world and manage to maintain the confidence of both sides. This book is an unparalleled, invaluable account of the identities, motivations, struggles, and pain of Israeli and Palestinian youth." -- Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Research Professor, Department of Psychology, Clark University, and author of Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties

"Hammack's book is a risky undertaking that has been masterfully executed. The book carefully crosses disciplinary borders, helping us widen our understanding of social phenomena at the individual and group levels, and pays special attention to the intricate connections between individual psychology and social structure as these are mediated through action. Hammack is clear about his commitment to get involved as a scientist in bettering the world and refuses to fall into our traditional illusory vision of science and politics as mutually exclusive." -- Zvi Bekerman, School of Education, Melton Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

"This book marks the emergence of a brilliant new voice in cultural psychology. Phillip Hammack tells the stories of Palestinian and Israeli youth and shows how the master narratives that comprise their respective cultures shape personal identity and give meaning to individual lives, even as they perpetuate a deadly conflict of global significance. As a social scientist, Hammack offers an intellectual tour de force, filled with surprising theoretical insights and interpretations. And as a storyteller, he engages us on a profoundly emotional level." -- Dan P. McAdams, Chair, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, and author of The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By

"This is a compelling, beautifully written, and nuanced study of Israeli, Arab-Israeli, and Palestinian youth. Hammack's study poses important policy questions and makes a major contribution to the study of adolescent psychological development, the politics of identity, and theories of narrative." -- Bertram J. Cohler, William Rainey Harper Professor, University of Chicago

"Dr. Hammack paints an engaging canvas of how 'cultures' are contested from within, using narratives of Israeli and Palestinian youth inhabiting a place of vast social and political complexity. This volume represents supreme scholarship; it is ambitious, historically informed, impeccably researched, and profound in its implications." -- Per F. Gjerde, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz

"This brilliant book by an erudite psychologist is about the impact of group conflict on personal identity formation. This book forces us to recognize that well-intended person-to-person encounters between Israeli and Palestinian adolescents are not likely to produce love and understanding." -- Richard A. Shweder, William Claude Reavis Distinguished Service Professor of Human Development, University of Chicago

"Phillip Hammack is also interested in social identity but he is equally concerned with personal identity, the sort of identity postulated by Erik Erikson in the mid-20th century as a developmental outcome of adolescence. Personal, or ego, identity has been studied ever
since in the form of various neo-Eriksonian theories and research programs within the field of developmental psychology (Moshman, 2007, 2011a). Identities are both individual and social, in Hammack's view, thus connecting levels of explanation. The concept of identity
bridges the individualistic explanations of psychology and the social and cultural explanations of the social sciences." -- Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology

"This is a compelling and important book, of interest to a large number of researchers in psychology, politics, sociology, and anthropology, as well as practitioners involved in peace education. Hammack defines himself a "scholar-practitioner." The book illustrates what he means. As a scholar, he sheds light on the complex relation between the personal and the structural and makes a passionate call for contextualized, evidence-based theory development." -- Theory & Psychology

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