Wandering Souls
Wandering Souls
Translated by Stephen Muecke

In September 2014, the French government entrusted Tobie Nathan with the task of counselling radicalized young people who had been drawn to jihadism and in this book he recounts his experiences of some of the young people he met and counselled. He describes what he heard, felt and perceived in his encounters with these young people and their loved ones as he tried to understand the forces running through them and tried to grasp what their fate held in store for them. In so doing, he shows that the history of radicalizations is not the history of ‘natures’ but of metamorphoses – an unpredictable journey, with moments of immobility punctuated by sudden intoxication at the thought of other futures. It is a history of wandering souls who find themselves unable to form a narrative of origin and in thrall to harmful forces but who may find a way home one day.

This deeply humane and engaging book will be of great interest to everyone concerned with the issue of radicalization and with the deep and growing challenges our societies face in accommodating difference.

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  • December 2019
  • 200 pages
  • 143 x 219 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $64.95
  • 9781509534951
  • Paperback $22.95
  • 9781509534968
  • Open eBook $14.99
  • 9781509534975
Table of Contents

1.   Secularity and the War of the Gods
2.   The Veil as Membrane
3.   Filiation and Affiliation
4.   Conversion and Initiation
5.   Apocalypse
6.   Hashish and Assassins
7.   Terror
8.   Abandoned Children are Political Beings
9.   The Foreignness of Migrant Children
10.  Generations
About the Author
Tobie Nathan is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University Paris-VIII and the founder of the first ethnopsychiatric clinic in France.
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Wandering Souls is uplifting and insightful, inviting readers to overcome natural reactions of fear, rejection and intellectual paralysis in the face of young people attracted to radical Islam and instead to start thinking again, to make possible alternative pathways for these youths, by entering into their worlds, understanding their questions, their predicaments and those of their parents. Vivid case examples are intertwined with the first-person narration of the author's own experience as an immigrant child in France in a deeply moving book that reads like a novel.’
Catherine Grandsard, University of Paris 8 Saint-Denis

 ‘The “wandering souls” in Tobie Nathan’s book are troubled lives, mainly migrants seeking refuge in France from disorder and danger in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. Many of these lives remain restless and unanchored after resettlement in Europe.  Some of them find a place reserved in Islam, occasionally among jihadists, while others pick up where they left off, wandering once again. Nathan’s excellent ethnographic account is faithful to the wanderings of these souls rather than the expectations of readers addicted to happy endings.’
Allan Young, McGill University

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