The idea of separation in self-determination and in self-definition in the Nation of Islam from the late 1950s to the early 1960s
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This master’s thesis deals with the idea of separation in self-determination and in self-definition in the Nation of Islam from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. The Nation of Islam was a religious and socio-political organization for African-Americans that was founded in 1930 in Detroit. In the 1950s, it was the fastest growing and most influential of the organizations that emphasized black radicalism. I focus on the rhetoric acts of Elijah Muhammad (a head of the organization) and Malcolm X. In the earlier studies, identity and self-determination were considered key factors. Usually, these types of studies emphasized the importance of identity and self-determination in explaining black radicalism. However, they were problematic because scholars have not been exact when defining concepts such as identity and self-determination. Therefore, we need to have a more specific approach to the topic, which helps us to conceptualize identity and self-determination. I suggest that, in addition to self-determination, we need the concept of self-definition in order to understand aspects of identity in the Nation of Islam and black radicalism The difference between self-determination and self-definition is that I defined self-determination as empowerment, which includes control over one’s life, coping and goal-orientated action. Separation refers to the Nation of Islam’s aspiration for physically separated space, in which control over their own recourses was possible. Self-determination is insufficient in understanding the Nation of Islam because psychological and identity-related issues are understood merely in their relation to self-motivation and well-being. Self-definition, on the other hand, is important because it refers more to psychological factors, status and recognition. The aspiration for separation is seen as an attempt to avoid negative self-identity and creating their own separated space from whites, within which efforts of reconstructing identity are possible. ...
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