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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Politics through Portraiture: Albert Memmi on Identity and Difference

Joan Cocks.

From the dialectic of colonizer and colonized to the psychology of racism to the distinction between East and West to the defense of Jewish nationalism, Albert Memmi's intellectual preoccupations have mirrored some of the great cataclysms of the second half of the twentieth century and the start of the twenty-first. Memmi's method of articulating the politics of identity and difference combining fictional representation, the construction of ideal types, and bluntly polemical argument contrasts with the mathematical and positivistic analyses that often count as good social science today. This paper will challenge aspects of the evolution of Memmi's political ideas while defending his method of presenting those ideas as provocatively well suited to his subject.


Joan Cocks  (United States)
Professor of Politics and Chair of Critical Social Thought
Mount Holyoke College

Joan Cocks is Professor of Politics and Chair of the Interdisciplinary Program in Critical Social Thought at Mount Holyoke College. Her most recent book is PASSION AND POLITICS: INTELLECTUALS CONFRONT THE NATIONAL QUESTION (Princeton University Press, 2002).

  • Politics of Identity
  • Jewish Nationalism
  • Colonizer and Colonized
  • East and West
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Political Portraiture
Person as Subject
  • Memmi, Albert

(30 min Conference Paper, English)