Dream of a Borderless World: The Castaway Identity in a Vortex of Conflict

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Monika Gabriela Bartoszewicz, European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation, Venice, Italy


    This presentation engages European converts to Islam as people who cross the river of identity. For some it is a simple process of crossing and not looking back while for others it is rather like standing over the river with each foot on a different bank. Others, however, being pushed and pulled from both sides, end up in the murky waters of uncertain belonging. Based on a fresh theoretical approach, this presentation explores the issue of a conflict identity by focusing on the Castaway archetype that has become emblematic, often being taken as representative of the whole convert community. To define this archetype in one sentence, one could say that instead of living Islam in Europe, the Castaways live Islam instead of Europe. Usually the rejection of everything that builds individual’s identity in the negative way, the rejection of everything that we are not, is based on the inexperienced strangeness: We are not what is alien to us, we are not what is different. But the case of the Castaway identity is even more complex; Castaways have an intimate understanding of the values and norms they repudiate because they have been born and brought up within the European culture which they subsequently discard and replace with values they deem as standing in stark contrast to those of Western civilization. It is this also which gives such a poignancy to Castaways’ pent-up hatred for their own past and serves as an enabler of radicalisation on the fertile grounds of rejection and exclusion and finds relief in a framework of Islamic discourse that is adjusted to this need. Since their whole existence is attuned towards confrontation with ‘the Other,” Castaways epitomize a conflict identity that inexorably leads towards violent and non-violent (ideological) clashes. Thus, the presentation elucidates how the tandem of rejection and exclusion trigger dynamics whereby a desire for a borderless world results in perpetual reaffirming of existing divisions.